In one blow against Chinese app providers, India's federal government has completely banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps.
The app store operators Apple and Google are to be forced to remove the apps from their Indian offerings.
The permanent ban follows a temporary ban from the previous year.
At that time, the Indian government had announced that the duration of the measure would depend on how the Chinese app providers respond to questions about security and privacy requirements.
The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has now announced to the Indian media that the answers to the questions from the Indian government have been unsatisfactory.
In addition to the TikTok social media app, which is extremely popular among young people, the WeChat chat network operated by Internet giant Tencent and the Alibaba group’s mobile Internet browser “UC Browser” are also blocked.
For the app providers, this closes the door to India's billion dollar market - TikTok alone had over 120 million Indian users registered at the beginning of 2020, India was TikTok's most important growth market until 2020.
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The Cybercrime Coordination Center, which is subordinate to the responsible ministry, had already announced during the provisional ban in mid-2020 that the Chinese apps would all pose a threat to India's sovereignty, integrity and cybersecurity, relying on Article 69a of the Indian Information Technology Act, specially created for this purpose.
The ban that has now been announced is only part of a larger economic war against Chinese IT companies in India: Since foreign policy tensions between India and China have steadily increased in recent months, the IT ministry has banned a total of over 260 Chinese apps since June, 118 of them alone in August last year, including the online game Player Unknown Battlegrounds, which is very popular in India, and the apps from the electronics manufacturer Xiaomi.
The Indian government spoke of a digital strike against China and made a direct link between the digital sanctions and ongoing border skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops on the border between the Indian-administered Ladakh region of Kashmir and the Chinese-occupied Tibet.
The permanent ban on Tencent, Alibaba and TikTok that has now been announced could be related to the latest incident last Wednesday at the border in Naku La in the Indian state of Sikkim, in which, according to Indian media reports, PLA soldiers advanced into Indian territory.
TikTok under pressure in Europe too
India is not the only country using TikTok as a bargaining chip in foreign policy with China.
The US government under former President Donald Trump also imposed sanctions on TikTok last year and tried to force the Chinese TikTok operator ByteDance to sell its US activities.
It is not yet clear to what extent the administration of the new US President Joe Biden will continue this policy.
TikTok is also in trouble in Europe: Italy last week blocked access to TikTok for all users whose age is not verified beyond doubt.
The Italian data protection authority had initially imposed the ban until February 15, demanding that TikTok enforce the minimum age of 13 years for its users.
A ten-year-old girl died last week in Palermo, Sicily, when she was taking part in a so-called TikTok challenge, a kind of “don't you dare anyway” test of courage among young users.
The child had strangled himself trying to pass out through asphyxiation.
TikTok then announced that everything was done for the safety of users.
Joint task force set up in Europe
But the so-called challenges are part of TikTok culture - and TikTok does not want to block them all.
In January, a youth in Pakistan died while trying to film himself on train tracks.
Most recently, the group had repeatedly deleted videos of risky challenges - for example, last summer all videos of the “Kulikitaka Challenge”, in which users were supposed to scare cows.
In Switzerland, among other places, animals fell to their deaths.
In the EU, TikTok has been under surveillance by data and youth protection agencies for a long time.
In addition to Italy, data protectionists in Denmark, the Netherlands and France are also checking whether TikTok adequately checks the minimum age of its users.
In June 2020, the European data protection authorities even set up a joint TikTok task force that is supposed to monitor how the Chinese handle the data of European users.