April’s been a busy month for the Internet and public policymakers in India. PUBG has had numerous calls for bans hot on its heels, while TikTok was ripped from app stores — both Android and OS. But not everyone agrees with these bans; just over the weekend, it was reported the Supreme Court of Nepal stayed the PUBG ban. The initially hilarious feud between PewDiePie and T-Series has now gone to a scarily legal level, too. By the time this article goes live, who knows where these three issues will be?
- As the name suggests, AdAway helped users get rid of all those annoying ads on their Android devices. It was among the most popular ad-blocker apps, till it was removed by Google from the Play Store.
One of the universally trending questions is: is it too late to ban these entities? N S Nappinai, Supreme Court lawyer and cyber-law expert, shares it’s not as black-and-white as it may seem. But as with the law, there are legal implications for netizens and citizens. For Nappinai, the need of the hour comprises not such expansive or excessive bans. She adds, “We need well-defined laws and regulations to meet the requirements of the progressively expanding world of social media and online gaming. We need strong enforcement when violations happen, not strong bans. Developers of games and users alike ought to exercise responsibility.”
We also speak to netizens and commentators on the subjects, those who’ve long been navigating the thickets of the web for as long as these platforms have been around.
The PewDiePie saga continues
After T-Series took a lead in the Great Subscriber War (race to 100 million subscribers on YouTube), PewDiePie released ‘Congratulations’, a parody song which congratulates T-Series on becoming the most subscribed channel.
Ironically, this led to PewDiePie gaining the lead for a little while on April 2. A few days later, T-Series filed a case in the Delhi High Court, seeking a ban on the songs ‘ B*tch Lasagna’ and ‘ Congratulations’ in India, citing the songs are defamatory and disrespectful to the Indian community. The High Court agreed and ordered YouTube to remove the songs. However, users in India can still access them using a VPN.
On October 5, PewDiePie uploaded ‘ T-Series diss track’ later renamed as ‘ B*tch Lasagna’ (for comedic purpose as a reference to a post on Reddit’s thread indianpeoplefacebook). It has over 180 million views. There are several videos made by YouTubers across India, which explained Gulshan Kumar Dua’s phenomenal journey to being one of the biggest entrepreneurs in India. No wonder T-Series didn’t move the court earlier. There will be another hearing in July.
The TikTok story
Since its launch in 2016 in China and its worldwide release a year later, TikTok became the most downloaded app in the first half of 2018. An iOS and Android app, it allows users to make music videos of 3 to 15 seconds and looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds.
Madhu Chowdhary N, a 19-year TikTok user from Visakhapatnam, who has more than 40,000 followers, says, “It’s not about the number of followers. I like theatre, I use it to improve my acting skills and have fun.” She admits there are anti-social elements on the platform and prefers to ignore them.
Recently, the Madras High Court ordered Google and Apple to remove the app from their app stores, which came into effect on April 18. However, the Supreme Court has declined to stay the Madras High Court order. As per the apex court’s directive, the Madras High Court will decide on the question of interim relief on April 24. The removal doesn’t affect existing users. Some may argue this is pointless because the new users can install it from third-party app stores. In fact, the company is planning to invest $1 billion, so don’t worry, TikTokers.
The High Court order said that the app encourages pornography and pranks, and it is affecting children’s mindset and exposing them to sexual predators. However, access to pornography isn’t illegal in India and pranks by themselves aren’t a crime. Also, those points are applicable to most social media platforms. TikTok has contested that just banning their platform violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which provides equality before the law.
In February, TikTok paid $5.7 million to settle US Federal Trade Commission allegations that the company illegally collected personal information from children. As a result, the company has started working on splitting the users into age-appropriate TikTok environments. This update would be eventually rolled out globally.
Helena Lersch, Director, Global Public Policy, TikTok, says, “Safety of our users on the platform is a key priority for us. Our in-app reporting feature allows us to address any objectionable content or users reported in real-time. We have a strong moderation team which combines the power of technology and robust human intervention, covering 15 Indian languages, to remove inappropriate content from the platform.”
Is PUBG next in line?
Last year, PUBG Mobile was nominated for Best Breakthrough Hit and Best Community Building Game awards on the PlayStore. However, the Rajkot police have other ideas. A few days ago, they made a formal request to Google to block downloads in the city. While Google is yet to respond, fans across India are concerned that PUBG might face the same fate as TikTok — removing from official app stores — which doesn’t seem too bad. Of course, gamers will find a way to play the game, but for a high-end multi-player game like PUBG, updates are important.
But the bigger issues are why can’t parents monitor how many hours their child spends playing the game, and why is the State police getting involved? There have been multiple reports of children being arrested for playing the game in Gujarat.
(With inputs from Divya Kala Bhavani)