Tik Tok, formerly known as Musical.ly, has more than 54 million monthly active users in India and is one of the most downloaded apps amongst consumers, trailing only second after Instagram. However, while this is a social media app that is quite popular, it has recently been facing controversy in the media regarding pornographic content. The app has also faced controversy regarding whether children who use this app are protected from predators, and whether the circulation of sexualized dancing falls under the purview of pornographic content. As a result of all this controversy, Madras High Court has been looking into the matter in order to see what the law’s stance on this app should be.
The judgment order against Tik Tok read “ The Government has to answer whether the Union of India will enact a statute, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted by the United States, to prevent the children from becoming cyber/online victims”.
In response to this, the court said “Most of the teens are playing pranks, gaffing around with duet videos sharing with split screen to the strangers. The children who use the said application are vulnerable to sexual predators”. This reply was in response to Muthu Kumar’s, the senior lawyer, petition. According to Mr. Kumar, Bangladesh and Indonesia have already banned this application from their countries.
The court also said “the Government has got the social responsibility to prevent these kinds of applications and take action against the persons who are making use of it. It is always open to the authorities to take action without waiting for an order from this court. “
“On March 27, an auto driver was arrested for posting a video that included a woman from Chennai on Tik Tok Mobile App. A 15-year-old girl is said to have committed suicide in Mumbai for being scolded by her grandmother for use of the Tik Tok App. An old man is said to have fallen in the waterfalls in Valpari while taking a selfie or Tik Tok video. Before many tragic incidents would occur, the Government has to take appropriate steps.”
The judgment further stated, “The writ petition is to ban the Tik Tok Mobile App which was containing degrading culture and encouraging pornography beside causing pedophiles and explicit disturbing content, social stigma, and medical health issue between teens”.
Furthermore, the court has also asked the authorities to list down the steps that they have taken in order to regulate the use of this app. Protecting the privacy and safety of children and women, which can easily be exploited by such apps, is definitely something India should prioritize. With sex crimes and pedophilia on the rise, brands themselves need to be more conscious about the way they tackle and prevent such problems. Recently, in a misguided attempt to tackle the same, Youtube disabled comments and demonetized all family channels that contained children, to ensure there were no pedophiles commenting on the videos. However, instead of punishing the creators, these brands need to find ways to punish the criminals instead. They obviously have account data and can track comments. Shouldn’t they do that instead?