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Asia-Pacific Business Indian court moves to lift ban on Chinese video app TikTok

Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

An Indian state court on Wednesday moved to lift a ban on popular video app TikTok in the country, two lawyers involved in the case said, in a boost for its developer Beijing Bytedance Technology Co.

Earlier this month, the court in the southern state of Tamil Nadu ordered the federal government to prohibit TikTok downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography and could expose children to sexual predators.

Acting upon subsequent instructions from the federal IT ministry, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google last week removed TikTok from their Indian app stores.

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But on Wednesday, hearing a plea from Bytedance, the state court reversed its April 3 decision pushing for the ban, K. Neelamegam, a lawyer who argued against Bytedance in the case, told Reuters.

Neelamegam added that his client, an individual who had filed a public interest litigation calling for the ban, did not plan to appeal the court’s latest decision.

A senior government official told Reuters the IT ministry, once it received the court’s order, would ask Apple and Google to allow the TikTok app to return on their platforms.

A spokesman for TikTok said the company welcomed the court’s decision. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our users better,” he said.

TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects and is one of the world’s most popular apps. It has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

TikTok features memes and music videos, with some clips showing youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-synching and dancing to popular tunes. Some Indian politicians and parents say its content is inappropriate.

A second lawyer involved in the case, who declined to be named, said Bytedance argued in the state court that TikTok was just a platform where users upload their videos and the company should not be held liable for their actions.

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A “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok’s videos were considered inappropriate or obscene, the company has previously said in a court filing.

Bytedance had also urged India’s Supreme Court to quash the ban, but the case was referred back to the state court. The ban was resulting in “financial losses” of up to $500,000 a day for Bytedance, and had put more than 250 jobs at risk, the company had said.

The ban worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms.

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