Madras High Court directs the Government to Prohibit Downloading of TikToc App.

April 4, 2019

Social media has transformed the world today, especially for young minds. From meeting in person and knowing someone has been replaced by sending friend requests to liking a post. Social Media does have its positive effects, however, the negative impact it leaves on young minds cannot be ignored. Reported incidents such as Blue Whale Challenge, death of Phoebe Prince clearly points towards the risks of cybercrimes such as cyberbullying, child pornography etc.

Recently highlighting the damaging effect social media can have on young minds Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, comprising of Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar, issued an interim direction to the central government, to prohibit downloading of the TikToc application. The order also sought to prohibit media from airing TikTok videos.

The order stressed on the fact that this is a ‘dangerous issue’. It was held that ‘the dangerous aspect is that inappropriate contents including language and pornography being posted in the TikTok App. There is a possibility of children contacting strangers directly and luring them. Without understanding the dangers involved in these kinds of Mobile Apps, it is unfortunate that are our children are testing with these Apps’.

The Petitioner contended that the App was degrading culture and encouraging pornography, besides causing pedophiles and explicit disturbing content, social stigma and medical health issue between the teens. The Court agreeing to the Petitioner’s contention observed that Majority of the teens are playing pranks, gaffing around with duet videos sharing with split screen to the strangers. The children who use the said application are vulnerable and may expose them to sexual predators …. Without understanding the dangers involved in these kinds of Mobile Apps., it is unfortunate that our children are testing with these Apps’.

Expressing its consternation, the Court further took note of unfortunate incidents that had occurred because of TikToc. These incidents were:

  • the suicide case of a 15-year-old girl in Mumbai, who committed suicide for being scolded by her grandmother for use of the TikToc
  • an auto rickshaw driver being arrested for posting a video that included a woman from Chennai on TicTok
  • an old man falling into waterfall while taking a selfie video for TicTok

Further, the Court questioned the officials for not learning anything even after the Court prohibiting the ‘Blue Whale’ game in suo moto proceedings. It emphasized that the government has the social responsibility to act in such circumstances. It held that ‘Only when the officials and policy makers are alive to the problems of the society, decision could be taken to prevent this kind of cyber applications. The people are making cruel humour against innocent third parties. Even Television channels are also telecasting TikTok videos, which are also liable to be prohibited”.

The Court also emphasized on the steps that are being taken globally to counter the menace of cyber bullying of minors. It highlighted that US has already passed the Children Online Privacy Act. Therefore, it suggested that the Indian government also should enact a similar legislation. It held that ‘Such an Act is necessary in our country also, as more offences against women and children are reported everyday using Cyber space. Mainly, the Cyber crimes are committed taking advantage of the unanimity of the person and the place from where it is committed. Every day, the Cyber crimes including economic crimes are increasing and even, the security of our country is also threatened’.

The matter is next listed on April 4, 2019. Watch out this space for some more updates on the same.

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