India Journalism Tech

India’s TikTok Ban Is a Cautionary Tale for the U.S.

I’m late in posting this, but that was the headline on a story my colleague Vibhuti Agarwal wrote last month.

It began: <-- 🎁 Gift link

NEW DELHI—Gayatari Mohanty always wanted to be a dancer. But her father, who washes cars for a living, and her mother, a domestic helper, didn’t have enough money for lessons. So the 19-year-old New Delhi native taught herself.

One day in 2019, Mohanty discovered TikTok. She and a friend were drawn to the platform’s lighthearted videos. They often rushed home from school to upload clips of Mohanty’s spirited dancing to retro Bollywood songs from the 1960s and 70s.

Soon Mohanty had gained some 5,000 followers. That didn’t make her a star or earn her any money, but it was enough to boost her confidence.

“My skill gave me my biggest achievement in life,” she said. “TikTok became my stage where I could show my dancing skills and get appreciated for it.”

That all ended suddenly the next year, when India’s government banned the Chinese short video-sharing titan, citing cybersecurity concerns.

“It felt like a personal loss, like someone close to me was no more,” she said.

The South Asian nation provides a case study in what happens when the wildly popular service goes away, as it might in the U.S. A bipartisan bill that sailed through the House this month would force parent company ByteDance to sell the platform’s U.S. operations or face a ban. President Biden has said he supports such legislation, which will now go to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

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Journalism Tech

India Ban Disrupts TikTok Users and China’s Digital Ambitions

That’s the headline on my newest story, our Tuesday, with my colleague Liza Lin. It begins:

India’s decision to ban dozens of Chinese apps is a big setback for China’s top tech firms trying to replicate their remarkable domestic success globally, as they are now stymied in what many consider the world’s last great untapped digital market.

India would block new downloads and prevent or disrupt access for existing Indian users of 59 Chinese apps in a matter of days, a government official who is familiar with the matter said Tuesday. “We have already asked Google and Apple to take note of the government’s latest decision and remove the apps,” the official said, “They are in the process of executing the ban.”

The official, who declined to be named, also said authorities are working with internet service providers to block access for existing app users.

Among the apps are Bytedance Ltd.’s wildly popular TikTok—which has been downloaded 660 million times in India, the company’s largest market by users outside China—along with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s UC Browser and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat messaging platform. Some TikTok users in India have started to receive error messages and are unable to access the video app, according to checks by The Wall Street Journal.

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