Supreme Courts directs Madras HC to decide plea of TikTok app on April 24

SC says if the Madras High Court fails to decide on app’s plea on April 24, its ban order will stand vacated.

Supreme Courts directs Madras HC to decide plea of TikTok app on April 24
CHENNAI: The Supreme Court said on Monday that a stay on downloads of popular short-video mobile application TikTok would stand vacated if the Madras High Court does not decide in its next hearing on Wednesday a plea by Chinese internet firm Byte-Dance against the latter’s interim order. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on April 3 gave an interim order to stop downloads of the app, on concerns that “pornographic and inappropriate content” were being made available through app.

Last week, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote to both Google and Apple to ban downloads of the app through their Google Play and Apple App stores, after the Supreme Court refused to stay the interim order. “We request the High Court to hear and decide the prayer for vacation of the interim stay, fail- ing which, it is hereby ordered that the ex-parte stay order of the High Court shall stand vacated,” said a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

TikTok did not comment on the Supreme Court’s order.

ByteDance, which relied on the protection accorded to intermediaries in Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, argued that TikTok was an intermediary and that it could not be held liable for actions of third parties. The Act’s Intermediary Guidelines provide conditional legal safeguards to technology platforms for third-party content shared through their platforms.

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, said in its petition to the top court that the app was like any other social media platform, and singling out Tik-Tok was discriminatory and arbitrary. The ‘disproportionate’ ban had resulted in infringement of its fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, it argued. TikTok said last week that it complies with local laws and ensures that it doesn’t promote objectionable content on platform.

“TikTok removed six million videos that violated Community Guidelines,” Sumedhas Rajgopal, lead of strategy at TikTok India said last week. Many Chinese applications, including TikTok, have come under fire, not only in India, but also in the US, the UK, Hong Kong and Indonesia for content that is often seen as dangerously close to exposing children to nudity and possibly those who seek to coerce or groom underage users into committing explicit acts.
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