New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Monday night announced a ban on 59 Chinese apps, including popular ones such as TikTok and UC Browser, in a move that it claimed was necessary to “safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users”.
None of the apps is identified as Chinese in the press release, nor did the government reveal why this need to “safeguard” Indian mobile and net users has arisen right after the clash with Chinese troops in Galwan, Ladakh – where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action – and not earlier.
“There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens,” a government press release said.
“On the basis of these and upon receiving recent credible inputs that such apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices… This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” it read.
TikTok is one of five Chinese companies that have made donations to the PM CARES Fund set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight COVID-19 and there is no indication yet of whether the fund intends to refund the Rs 30 crore the company said it had handed over.
According to the official order, the IT ministry is banning these apps under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with other relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
Some of the banned apps include TikTok, UC Browser, WeChat, Weibo, SHAREit and Clash of Kings. While many of the listed apps are not that popular, the most crucial ban is that on social media and video-sharing app TikTok — which over the last two years has taken India by storm, picking up millions of users and spawning a new creative entertainment industry.
As recently as March 17, 2020, when a question was asked in parliament about whether the government was considering banning TikTok for security reasons, the minister of state for home affairs replied that “there is no such proposal”.
The government press release indicated that the IT ministry had “received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India”.
“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the press release said.
In May 2015, PM Modi had joined Weibo – China’s version of Twitter – ahead of his first official visit to the country. His account, which has 240,000 followers, is generally used to talk about yoga and to wish Chinese President Xi Jinping on his birthday.
This year, Modi did not wish Xi on his birthday on June 15. It was on that night that a violent clash occurred between Indian and Chinese forces, resulting in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers. Even before the clash, the two countries were engaged in a standoff due to a border dispute.
The full list of 59 banned apps is as below:
|31. Mi Video Call – Xiaomi
33. ES File Explorer
34. Viva Video – QU Video Inc
36. Vigo Video
37. New Video Status
38. DU Recorder
39. Vault- Hide
40. Cache Cleaner DU App studio
41. DU Cleaner
42. DU Browser
43. Hago Play With New Friends
44. Cam Scanner
45. Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile
46. Wonder Camera
47. Photo Wonder
48. QQ Player
49. We Meet
50. Sweet Selfie
51. Baidu Translate
53. QQ International
54. QQ Security Center
55. QQ Launcher
56. U Video
57. V fly Status Video
58. Mobile Legends
59. DU Privacy