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Google is said to block TikTok in India, hurting Chinese startup

India is one of several nations across Asia adopting more draconian oversight of internet companies, similar to the way China regulates the web.

Updated: Apr 17, 2019, 09.45 AM IST
By Mark Bergen

Google has complied with an Indian court order to block access to the popular app TikTok over government concerns with illicit content, according to a person familiar with the decision. The move could handicap the app’s owner, China’s Bytedance Ltd., the world’s most highly valued startup, in one of its most promising markets.

An Indian state court had earlier asked the federal government to ban TikTok, citing concerns the video-sharing mobile app exposed children to troubling content, including pornography. Bytedance fought the proposal, but was overruled by India’s Supreme Court. Regulators then asked Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. to remove TikTok from their app stores.

A spokeswoman from Google declined to comment. A representative from Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The court ruling restricts future downloads of the app in India, not existing downloads, said the person familiar with the decision, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

Also Read: TikTok ban to stay, HC names counsel to evaluate its impact

A Bytedance spokeswoman declined to comment on the app store decisions, but provided a statement from TikTok India: “We have faith in the Indian judicial system,” the company said. “And we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India.”

India is one of several nations across Asia adopting more draconian oversight of internet companies, similar to the way China regulates the web.

Bytedance, which creates social and news-reading apps, has most of its users and sales in China. But TikTok has exploded in popularity elsewhere, giving Bytedance more global reach than any other Chinese tech company. Investors have valued the closely held company at $75 billion. The startup has made a considerable push in India, where a vast majority of consumers use phones running Google’s Android software.

Reuters reported earlier on TikTok’s removal from Google’s app store in India.

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