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TikTok starts taking small steps to pacify India's concerns

The content that goes viral on Chinese video apps such as TikTok, Kwai and Bigo Live is often viewed as dangerously close to exposing children to nudity and possibly those who coerce underage users into committing explicit acts.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Feb 13, 2019, 07.34 PM IST
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India has emerged as a key battleground for American and Chinese apps fighting it out to get hold of its citizens’ data.
BENGALURU: TikTok is taking small steps to quell the Indian government’s concerns around the content and privacy policies of the Chinese short video app, which is hugely popular among the local teen and the pre-teen population.

The company recently hired Sandhya Sharma to drive its government relations and policy initiatives here. It is also looking to appoint a local grievances officer. She earlier worked with Mastercard India.

Recent proposals by the government, seeking to combat troublesome content around nudity along with fake news and hate speech, will affect TikTok, which has an estimated 39% of its 500 million global users in India, making the country its biggest foreign market.

On Tuesday, TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, the most valuable startup in the world, started an online campaign in partnership with Cyber Peace Foundation to promote online safety. It roped in social media celebrities such as Arjun Kanungo, Shirley Setia and Neha Kakkar on TikTok to talk about reporting hate speech and sexually explicit content, maintaining privacy online and avoid doing dangerous stunts to shoot videos.

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The content that goes viral on Chinese video apps such as TikTok, Kwai and Bigo Live is often viewed as dangerously close to exposing children to nudity and possibly those who seek to coerce or groom underage users into committing explicit acts. ET had reported that TikTok was filled with child predators.

“At TikTok, we are committed to maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment for our users to showcase their creativity and talent. TikTok in no way endorses or promotes content that is in violation of our community guidelines,” Sharma, director, public policy, told ET.

On TikTok, users create short videos set to music, often lip-synching, dancing or acting out skits. The app contains templates and visual effects to spice up the videos. There is also a live-streaming feature that allows users to send virtual “gifts” to their favourite creators, which can be bought with real money.

The rest works like any other social app — followers, hashtags, likes and comments.

India has emerged as a key battleground for American and Chinese apps fighting it out to get hold of its citizens’ data. Between this intense competition, Indian social media and messaging apps such as Sharechat, Hike and JioChat are pushing the country’s authorities to get stricter with foreign firms to protect Indian data sovereignty. While TikTok has grown its user base substantially outside of China over the past year, India, in particular, witnessed significant growth, according to Sensor Tower, a market analysis firm. Accounting for 27% of new Tik-Tok installs between December 2017 and 2018, the country saw downloads of the app increase nearly 25 times during that time, from 1.3 million to 32.3 million.

To ensure the safety of users, the app combines technology with a robust content-moderation team covering major regional languages in India, TikTok said. Its moderation team, which is based in over 20 countries and regions, has grown five times in the last one year.

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