As TikTok got banned in India, the country has seen an epic rise of alternatives. Though as many as 59 apps were banned, not every app had an alternative available. Slowly, many of the alternative apps are being developed while we have seen a huge rise in terms of TikTok alternatives with zero creativity or unique features– Yes, I’m talking about you, MX TakaTak. But I’m not going to talk about the inferiority of Indian apps because these apps have just been launched and I know Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If we expect Indian apps that can match their Chinese counterparts, first of all, we will have to understand the reasons behind banning Chinese apps. It’s not just India, US is also now going to ban Tiktok in particular and all these steps aren’t just related to diplomacy, but well connected to the common people who use these apps. Many of the Chinese apps had various issues due to which they were under the radar of many governments for a while.
Apart from privacy concerns, there were a few more reasons why apps like TikTok had to face the wrath of the Government of India: Explicit Content, Lack of Moderation, Lack of Cooperation with Law Enforcement, Content involving potential harm.
Not just TikTok, but many other apps that are disguised as social media or video streaming apps allow NSFW or Sexually Explicit Content. For example, Bigo Live claims that it’s a video streaming app, and the app is not based out of China, rather it’s a product of a company called Bigo Technology which is a Singapore-based firm that also owns LIKEE. But Bigo was also banned in India. So, it’s not about just diplomacy or rising tensions across the border, but it’s about making a statement against apps that promote anything harmful. In this case, even Facebook isn’t clean as the platform is being used to spread hatred, which might have bigger consequences.
Now, let’s keep Facebook aside and talk about apps like TikTok & Bigo. If you play games, you must have watched people streaming their gameplay. Twitch, owned by Amazon is the biggest player in the streaming industry. But Microsoft tried to compete with Twitch by bringing Mixer and paying millions to players like Shroud and Ninja, who would stream exclusively on Mixer. But Mixer was shut down and now Microsoft and Facebook have partnered to focus on Facebook Gaming. Now Shroud is back to Twitch and his popularity of growing as he shifts from CS GO to PUBG to Apex Legends and more.
There are streamers on Twitch, who has a huge userbase and many of them, especially the ladies are on OnlyFans. OnlyFans is a content subscription service based in London where Content creators can earn money from users who subscribe to their content. OnlyFans host NSFW content and hence it’s in a different league. So, the point I am trying to make here is that there must be a separation between a streaming platform and a platform that hosts NSFW content.
This is where Bigo fails miserably. On Bigo, you can see girls flashing half of their breasts on your screen. Now, that’s not illegal. But what if you don’t know about this fact and you Google for top streaming platforms, find Bigo and start playing something in front of your son? So, the disguise the problem. Tiktok also has NSFW content which, some people may not agree to. The definition of NSFW Content may not be the same everywhere for everyone. But, it’s there and even if you don’t agree, someone may do.
Lack of Moderation
Social Media must not be censored as China does. But moderation is required because the world is full of people who will try to use social media to spread hatred & violence, showcase their disrespect to religion and all. We all have witnessed what happened a few days ago in Bengaluru, which is the Silicon Valley in India where based on comments on religion a huge riot took place, and police were attacked.
Tiktok has this particular problem related to content moderation. Tiktok needs a lot of time to review and remove content. Also, so far TikTok has received most requests from law enforcement agencies and police in India than any other nation. It is not surprising considering that certain people are involved in promoting hate towards any particular community. Here’s an example.
What kinda content is this @TikTok_IN? The lines in the video are as follows!
Ilaka Hir Rha Tha
Nara E *** Ke Naaro Se (2X)
Zara Si Der Mein Maidan Bhara Tha Kafiro Ke Lasho Se
Jab Chali Haidar Ki Talwar
NOTE: ‘***’ denotes the word I couldn't comprehend. pic.twitter.com/3hnVHwDn1B
— Jayaditya (@jayadityaproto) May 19, 2020
There are some videos in which people have openly admitted to the fact that they violated certain laws, but they were proud because they are apparently ‘Tiktok Celebrities’.
The moment you break a rule, the clock starts going tick tock – it’s just a matter of time before you face the consequence! #TheSafetyFilter #TakingOnCorona pic.twitter.com/3qC6q0TIsW
— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) April 21, 2020
Another shocking video surfaced online when the news of Sushant Singh Rajput committing suicide broke the TV and internet. An infamous Content Creator made a video on TiktTk, claiming that he knows why Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide and he will put it in his stories so people should follow him to know the reason.
He's the only one who knows why #SushantSinghRajput committed suicide & he disclosed the reason on his @tiktok_us apparently. Go get him @MumbaiPolice. You need a detective like him!
His Facebook Profile ➡️https://t.co/TzQIFASwcu
His Tiktok Profile ➡️ https://t.co/SIq6VpwJSf pic.twitter.com/6yL2qHTvu3
— Jayaditya (@jayadityaproto) June 15, 2020
So, despite TikTok has shared a list of detailed community guidelines, these aren’t enough because with the Jio boom, more and more people are coming online and many of them are internet literate i.e. they don’t care about guidelines, they don’t give a damn to the after-effects of posting content online that might have huge consequences.
In terms of NSFW videos, I can understand that up to a certain point, it’s okay to allow NSFW content, but I was kinda shocked when I found out that there are videos on TikTok that can not be termed as NSFW but definitely as trailers of porn films, maybe!
I wouldn’t go and explain the guidelines in detail, but as TikTok mentions that content that shows human genitalia, female nipples, or buttocks aren’t allowed on TikTok. It’s kinda shocking that an app that relies on machine learning to suggest content to users, couldn’t automatically remove content that violates its guidelines regarding nudity involving adults.
Tiktok isn’t as clean as people think. Though many would argue that an app which relies on content generated by users there would be some problems here and there, Tiktok is kinda exceptional because the app doesn’t have a strict policy like Facebook where even nudity may lead to a ban for a day or two apart from getting the specific content removed. Twitter allows adult content and it is well within its community guidelines. However, in terms of hate speech, Twitter is also acting just like Tiktok does, where many have raised the question of transparency and bias that Twitter has farming day and night. However, despite the alleged biased behavior, Twitter is quite fast in responding to review or takedown requests unlike Tiktok, which is slow as a snail.
Unless and until Tiktok agrees to work on content moderation and tried creating a gap between NSFW, adult, and regular content, why would India lift a ban on the app considering that hate speech is the biggest spark right now to destabilize societies across the nation?
TikTok Alternatives in India – Do We Need Them?
As you can see that the problems associated with TikTok like apps aren’t just about privacy, and it’s more to do with the content they host. Given the circumstances, most of the Indian firms believe they could do better and launched several clones dubbed as the best alternatives for TikTok, Bigo, Like, Helo, and so on.
As pointed out in our previous article, none of these desi TikTok apps addressed the challenges or even had the time to at least provide a statement like our government officials would do that they’d make it safe. Yet, all they cared about till now is to capitalize on the national sentiment. No wonder all these apps have a common tag called ‘Made in India’. So, do we need them?