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India Bans TikTok, Calling It A Malicious App


Following rising domestic pressure to boycott Chinese-made goods, the Indian government on Monday ordered 59 Chinese apps to be blocked, including TikTok, WeChat, Shareit, and Clash of Kings.

The Indian government framed the move as protecting personal information from what it called “malicious apps,” that “harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.”

But tensions have been rising between the two nuclear powers for weeks, following a border clash in the Himalayas in which Chinese forces killed at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers died. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced domestic criticism, which undercuts his strongman image and conciliatory posture toward China, against which India has fought sporadically since a war in 1962.

“While the prime minister called for self-dependence recently, the idea would’ve been to build capability and not boycott products from India’s second-biggest trade partner,” Abhishek Baxi, a technology journalist and digital consultant, told BuzzFeed News. “While action against smartphone brands would be too much to handle, banning apps is a low-hanging fruit for political posturing.”

Among the 59 apps are some of the country’s most popular — and controversial. As of June 2019, the most recent date for which information was available, video-sharing app TikTok was used by an estimated 200 million people in the country as of October 2019. (Tiktok has not announced more recent user numbers for the country.) In April 2019, India banned the app for just over a week over child pornography concerns.

As that banning showed, restricting the apps is not as simple as a government decree. It requires the cooperation of Google and Apple, which run the stores where the apps are sold. As of Monday, those companies had not indicated whether or not they would comply with the order. Apple and Google have not yet responded to requests for comment.

On Tuesday night, TikTok issued a statement saying that the company’s executives had been “invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications.”

Earlier this month, Google removed an app called “Remove China Apps” from the Play Store in India, which had been downloaded 4.7 million times, and which claimed to scan people’s phones for Chinese apps and delete them.

TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is one of the world’s most valuable companies, worth over $100 billion as of May, according to Business Insider. With its headquarters in Beijing, it’s also one of the main vectors of Chinese soft power, its popularity raising concerns around the world, including from US senators, Egyptian courts, and Australian regulators.

“This isn’t just India-specific,” Abhijeet Mukherjee, the founder of Guiding Tech. “There has been growing discontent with how some of such apps are ‘probably’ crossing the line.”

Also among the ban were group chat platform WeChat, owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, mobile game Clash of Kings, and file-sharing app ShareIt, which BuzzFeed News reported in February was being used by Kashmiris to evade an internet shutdown levied by the Indian government. Several prominent Chinese-owned apps were not included, among them certain apps owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Despite liberalizing its foreign direct investment policies under Modi, the Indian government recently changed course. In April, China’s central bank acquired a 1.01% stake in India’s largest housing lender, after which the Indian government announced a new policy aimed at reducing Chinese investment in Indian firms. Although Chinese investment in India is small, its capital is disproportionately concentrated in the tech industry, with major stakes in 18 of the 30 largest startups, according to the Hindu.





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India Debates Skin-Tone Bias as Beauty Companies Alter Ads


“While movements like Black Lives Matter have had a profound impact in the West, in South Asian countries it is still a long-drawn battle,” she said.

Ms. Emmanuel said that skin-tone biases had the greatest impact on marriage and social issues but that in some fields, including entertainment, hospitality and modeling, “the qualification goes without saying that you need to be fair-skinned, particularly for women.”

Other commentators, though, insisted that colorism in India is different from racism in the West.

“The preference for lighter skin is largely aesthetic and does not have structural economic or power consequences,” said Dipankar Gupta, a well-known sociologist.

“It is not as if a policeman would routinely harass darker-skinned people,” Mr. Gupta added. “Indians can recognize class and status through a number of markers, but skin color is not one of them.”

Still, across India, there is great social pressure for people to seek light-skinned spouses.

Mohinder Verma, a businessman, defended placing an ad in a newspaper in which he sought for his son a “tall, good-looking” bride with “fair skin” who has a university degree but prefers to be a stay-at-home wife.

Mr. Verma, 72, said parents in India felt pressure within their social circles to find brides for their sons who look “gori,” or fair, although he agreed that “this thinking needs to change.”

“It’s somehow ingrained in our minds,” said Mr. Verma, who lives in the northern Indian state of Punjab. “When you have a dark-skinned daughter-in-law, people talk behind your back. They ask what wrong had we committed in our previous life.”

A 2017 study of 1,992 Indians found that more than half said they were influenced by TV advertisements to appear lighter-skinned.



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