In what could be a serious setback for China's ByteDance, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has issued an ultimatum to Tiktok and Helo apps asking them to respond to a set of 21 questions or face a ban otherwise.
The ministry is now threatening to impose a ban on TikTok and Helo in response to serious allegations by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch that both the apps are being used for anti-national activities.
Responding in a joint statement, Tiktok and Helo have reiterated ByteDance's commitment to developing technology infrastructure in India, in addition to its plans to invest $1 billion over the period of next three years. This is what TikTok and Helo have to say:
"We are grateful for the immense support given to us by India’s growing digital community. India is one of our strongest markets and we are happy to be part of the mainframe of Digital India in 15 Indian languages. In line with our commitment to India, we are investing $1 billion dollars in India over the next three years, with a strategic focus on developing technology infrastructure, establishing local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program which we are proud to be assisting with already."
TikTok and Help have also said that they will fully cooperate with the government regarding the issues raised by the ministry.
"Our continued success in India will not be possible without the support of our local community. We take our responsibilities to this community seriously and welcome this opportunity to fully collaborate with the Government to meet and exceed our obligations," they added.
MeitY is seeking a response from TikTok and Helo on the series of allegations that these apps have become "a hub of anti-national activities," as well as how the company is handling issues such as fake news. Meanwhile, the Government of India is also seeking assurance from ByteDance that data of Indian users will never be shared with any other foreign government or third-party or private entity.
Helo is accused of interfering with Indian elections in the past. Previously, India's ruling party workers had reportedly filed a complaint against Helo app to Election Commission (EC) citing Facebook's crackdown on 11,000 advertisements from Helo. The app also had to remove 50 lakh posts and 1.6 lakh accounts for violating its community guidelines.
Earlier, TikTok was briefly banned by the Madras High Court's Madurai bench over the concerns of "encouraging pornography" through its platform. The ban was later revoked and TikTok promised to improve the overall app experience and environment.
(With inputs from PTI)