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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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China’s Vaccine, TikTok, Pakistan Stock Exchange: Your Tuesday Briefing

Jessica Bennett, who covers gender and culture for The Times, spoke with Zee, Tiana Day, Shayla Turner and Brianna Chandler — four teenage girls who organized a protest and are part of the young generation at the forefront of activism for racial justice.

Zee and Tiana, neither of you had ever led a protest before. What propelled you?

Zee: It’s crazy. I’ve never been to a protest before — like, ever. I got inspired by what people were doing all across America, but there was no protest in Nashville at the time. I was like, why isn’t Tennessee doing anything? Why are they silent?

So I was like, enough is enough. We’re going to do something.

Tiana: For me, I was never really an activist before. But this movement lit a fire in me. I live in San Ramon, a suburban town in California, and I’ve grown up around people who didn’t look like me my whole life. And I’ve been constantly trying to fit in. I would stay out of the sun so I wouldn’t tan. I would straighten my hair every day. There’s so many things that I did to try to suppress who I was and what my culture was. I just never felt like myself.

But I have always had this, like, boiling thing, this boiling passion in my body to want to make a change in the world. We bought three cases of water because we thought it was enough. It was, like, four miles straight of people who were there to support the movement.

How have your families responded?

Shayla: My mom actually found out I was protesting through the newspaper. She was in Walgreens and did a double take because I was on the cover of the The Chicago Tribune.

What’s something about your generation that people get wrong?

Brianna: That our anger is not valid, that we don’t have a reason to be angry, that we don’t have a reason to riot. You know, there is that super popular Malcolm X quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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‘PizzaGate’ Conspiracy Theory Thrives Anew in the TikTok Era

But starting in April, a confluence of factors renewed interest.

A documentary promoting PizzaGate, “Out of Shadows,” made by a former Hollywood stuntman, was released on YouTube that month and passed around the QAnon community. In May, the idea that Mr. Bieber was connected to the conspiracy surfaced. Teenagers on TikTok began promoting both, as reported earlier by The Daily Beast.

A week ago, Rachel McNear, 20, watched “Out of Shadows,” which has garnered 15 million views on YouTube. She then turned to Twitter, where she came across Mr. Bieber’s supposed association with PizzaGate. After reading more on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, she created a one-minute description of her research on the topic and posted it to TikTok on Monday.

“The mainstream media uses words like conspiracy theory and how it is debunked but I’m seeing the research,” Ms. McNear, of Timonium, Md., said in an interview.

Her video was taken down on Wednesday when TikTok removed the #PizzaGate hashtag and all content searchable with the term. A TikTok spokeswoman said such content violated its guidelines.

That same day, Facebook also expunged PizzaGate-related comments under Comet Ping Pong’s page after a call from The Times.

YouTube said it had long demoted PizzaGate-related videos and removes them from its recommendation engine, including “Out of Shadows.” Twitter said it constantly eliminates PizzaGate posts and had updated its child sexual-exploitation policy to prevent harm from the conspiracy. Facebook said it had created new policies, teams and tools to prevent falsehoods like PizzaGate from spreading.

Teenagers and young adults, many of whom are just forming political beliefs, are particularly susceptible to PizzaGate, said Travis View, a researcher and host of the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast, which examines conspiracy theories. They are drawn to celebrity photos on tabloid sites and Hollywood blogs to uncover PizzaGate’s supposed secret symbols and clues, he said. Even a triangle — which can signify a slice of pizza — can be taken as proof that a celebrity is part of a secret elite cabal.

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Celebrity Entertaiment

Watch Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon’s TikTok Dance Challenge

Move over Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae! Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon took on the Watch It Once Dance Challenge and proved that they’re ready to be the next big TikTok stars.

The “On the Floor” singer, 50, appeared on the Friday, May 22, episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon where she faced off against Fallon, 45.

“Jennifer and I are going to watch a TikTok challenge that neither one of us have ever seen before. We’re going to try to recreate it, and whoever gets closest to it wins that round,” the Saturday Night Live alum explained.

Watch Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon’s TikTok Dance Challenge
Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Lopez revealed that she was a little nervous that her children — 12-year-old twins Max and Emme, whom she shares with her ex-husband Marc Anthony — would judge her moves.

“I’m gonna go down in flames in front of my kids. It’s fine,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Mom, don’t embarrass us!’”

Fallon joked back, “I’m kinda known for my dancing so this is gonna be easy for me.”

The duo competed against each other in the “Laxed (Siren Beat)” challenge and the “Get Busy” challenge before Lopez asked Fallon to perform a dance that she choreographed for World of Dance season 4.

The Hustlers star was impressed with Fallon’s skills and noted that it can be difficult keeping up with the TikTok generation.

“That wasn’t bad! It’s hard to do these in one thing,” Lopez told the late-night talk show host. “These kids take hours to do their TikToks and get them right.”

Lopez previously teamed up with Fallon to dance during the “Tight Pants” segment on his show in June 2014.

Fallon isn’t the only celebrity pal who has gotten a recent dance lesson from Lopez. The “Dinero” songstress revealed on May 3 that she taught her Super Bowl coheadliner, Shakira, how to shake her booty.

Lopez shared a behind-the-scenes clip via Instagram from their Super Bowl rehearsal earlier this year.

“I do it with my knees, I shake my knees. You shake your knees, the butt shakes too,” Lopez told the “Hips Don’t Lie” singer, 43, in the video. “My mom taught me that when I was 4.”

While Lopez has been reminiscing on the past amid the coronavirus pandemic, she and her fiancé, Alex Rodriguez, have had to put their plans for the future on pause. The Second Act star told Fallon in April that she and the former New York Yankees player had to cancel their wedding ceremony in Italy due to the pandemic.

“We have to go with the flow now. Everything is fluid. Everything has been just on a pause,” she explained. “We’ll see where the world takes us. Obviously, this is an unprecedented time. And for us, we just want to make sure that we think safety first and make sure that all the little ones are in a good place.”

Listen on Spotify to Us Weekly’s Hot Hollywood as each week the editors of Us break down the hottest entertainment news stories!

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Breaking New

NYC subway workers had plenty to do before a TikTok prankster dumped milk and cereal in a train

“A new low: Pulling a prank on essential workers in the middle of a global pandemic. And making essential workers clean up your mess. Despicable,” the MTA’s tweet said.

In the video, Josh Popkin, who has 3.3 million followers on TikTok, pretends to accidentally spill a large plastic storage container of milk and cereal on the floor.

The other passengers scramble to avoid the mess and leave the car as Popkin tries to pick up the soggy cereal with his hands. The video ends with Popkin getting off the train leaving a huge puddle of milk behind.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Fast Facts

The video is not dated, but the other passengers are wearing masks, which suggests it was shot during the coronavirus crisis. The video had been viewed at least 3.3 million times on TikTok, but it was no longer visible on his profile as of Friday afternoon. The video the MTA tweeted had 6.2 million views.

Some social media users called on Popkin to be arrested, kicked off of TikTok, banned from the MTA or be required to clean the trains as punishment.

An NYPD spokeswoman told CNN that the department is looking into the matter.

Popkin has posted apologies on his TikTok, Instagram and YouTube accounts, called himself an “idiot” and said he really messed up.

“I would like to apologize to the MTA, the essential workers, everyone I have affected,” he said in the YouTube video.

He said he is now feeling the consequences of his actions.

Packed London Tube trains are the latest symbol of the UK's confused coronavirus response

“I honestly thought it was going to be something that would make people laugh and bring joy in this serious time. Obviously, I was way off the mark,” he said. “I f***ed up, I went over the line, I made a mistake and the fact that I even thought that that was okay is ridiculous.”

The YouTube video lasts for more than five minutes and Popkin spends much of the time reading 50 angry comments people have made about him — many of which included threats of violence. That led some viewers to question his sincerity.

CNN was not able to reach Popkin for comment.

New York started closing the subway system for four hours each night earlier this month, so workers can clean due to the coronavirus. It’s the first planned nightly shutdowns in the subway’s 115-year history.
The MTA said on Tuesday that 116 of its employees have died from coronavirus.

CNN’s Rob Frehse contributed to this story.

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Breaking New

U.S. Navy bans TikTok from government-issued mobile devices

FILE PHOTO: TikTok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

(Reuters) – Earlier this week the United States Navy banned the social media app TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, saying the popular short video app represented a “cybersecurity threat.”

A bulletin issued by the Navy on Tuesday showed up on a Facebook page serving military members, saying users of government issued mobile devices who had TikTok and did not remove the app would be blocked from the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

The Navy would not describe in detail what dangers the app presents, but Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Uriah Orland said in a statement the order was part of an effort to “address existing and emerging threats”.

TikTok did not return a request for comment.

TikTok is hugely popular with U.S. teenagers, but has come under scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers in recent months. The U.S. government has opened a national security review of the app’s owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app, Reuters first reported last month.

Last month, U.S army cadets were instructed not to use TikTok, after Senator Chuck Schumer raised security concerns about the army using TikTok in their recruiting.

A Navy spokesman said Naval and Marine personnel who use government issued smart devices are generally allowed to use popular commercial apps, including common social media apps, but from time to time specific programs that present security threats are banned. He would not give examples of apps that are allowed or those considered unsafe.

The Pentagon’s Orland said the “Cyber Awareness Message” sent Dec. 16 “identifies the potential risk associated with using the TikTok app and directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information.”

Reporting by Michael M.B. Pell and Echo Wang in New York; editing by Grant McCool

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Breaking New

Chipotle issues TikTok challenge for Halloween

This year, the company is updating the promotion by partnering with video sharing app TikTok, encouraging users to post videos of themselves in their Halloween finery while using the hashtag #Boorito. The five posts with the most likes will win their users a year of free burritos.

This is Chipotle’s third joint venture this year with TikTok as the Mexican fast-casual chain looks to reach millennials and Gen Z customers.

Its first was a Cinco de Mayo challenge in May, and in July it launched National Avocado Day, for which the app’s users were encouraged to show dance moves dedicated to avocados. The company said it got 250,000 video submissions using the hashtag #GuacDance, and sold 802,000 sides of guacamole.

Even before the first TikTok challenge, organic Chipotle content kept emerging on the platform, Tressie Lieberman, Chipotle’s vice president of digital and off-premise marketing told CNN Business. “As a brand that over-indexes with millennials and Gen-Z, we wanted to engage in a way that felt authentic to the platform,” she said.

So a Maryland employee had a customer shoot a video of him flipping a lid onto a dish in what seems like a nanosecond. When the company posted it on Instagram it got more than a million views.

“We instantly knew from the reaction that this was the right opportunity to launch our TikTok partnership with a branded challenge,” Lieberman said.

Chipotle (CMG) now considers TikTok a media partner and is working with influencers on the platform such as Zach King, who has 24.6 million followers, and Brittany Broski, who has 1.4 million, to drive user interest.

The Halloween challenge “is our third but it’s definitely the first of many more to come,” Lieberman said.

The Chipoltle Halloween TikTok challenge begins at 1am ET on October 26 and ends at 1am ET on November 1. It’s available only to residents of the United States and Canada for those 13 or older.

The “Boorito” promotion will start at 3pm on Halloween Day next Thursday and ends when its stores close. US and Canadian customers in costume can get a burrito, bowl, salad or tacos for $4. Mobile and online orders don’t qualify.

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