TikTok’s experience in India offers broader lesson

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/25 20:33:40

Short-video platform TikTok will be available for download again in India, with media reports saying that the Madurai bench of the Madras high court on Wednesday vacated its interim order prohibiting downloading of the Chinese app.

How popular is TikTok in India? It reportedly has 120 million users there, amounting to nearly 10 percent of the country's population. Indian people's enthusiasm for TikTok allows it to take the crown as the world's most downloaded iPhone app, surpassing the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat in terms of monthly downloads.

After the Indian government forced TikTok to be taken down from Google and Apple's online marketplaces earlier this month over concerns about inappropriate content, curiosity among customers sparked by the ban prompted many people to look for other sources to download the popular app. 

In the internet era, it will be really hard for a government to kill a popular app because the difficulty and the cost of regulating the internet sector are very high.

The internet economy is rising in China, and it has great potential. Some Chinese platforms like TikTok are developing well and seeking larger overseas markets. The pressure of fierce competition still exists, but the business model created by TikTok has been proved to be competitive. 

More importantly, the app's innovation based on social media caters to changing demand in the sector while also taking the lead in that change by creating new demand and encouraging user participation.

Although Indian lawmakers said TikTok was encouraging the spread of "cultural degradation" among youth, the Indian court reversed its ban and gave the Chinese app a break. Why? 

The Indian government doesn't want to strangle the business model and seems willing to tolerate the side effects of internet-related innovation in the short run, in a bid to promote the development of its own internet economy.

But we can't be overly optimistic. It's possible that the Indian government may renew its tough stance toward TikTok in the future. Despite its promising development, TikTok must carefully study India's different overseas market environments. The app has reportedly removed more than 6 million videos in India that violated its content guidelines and introduced an age bar for its new users. Such efforts are necessary and more such measures are needed.

Internet supervision is normal. TikTok and other Chinese internet platforms must be able to survive amid other countries' strict supervision of the internet. This is an important and indispensable part of the internationalization process of TikTok and Chinese internet innovation.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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