The Madras high court has passed an interim direction to prohibit downloading of the TikTok mobile app as it contains "degrading culture and encourages pornography, besides causing paedophiles and explicit disturbing content, social stigma and medical heath issue between teens (sic)". The fact that the app, that has apparently been downloaded several hundred million times and at least by 50 million Indian users, is freely available for download on the PlayStore and other app stores, shows bans rarely work. Online bans even on porn sites are often beaten by websites that change names present the same content without major disruption to their Internet presence, policing which is hard for authorities in democracies with no pre-censorship, nor can users be hit with stiff penalties as in totalitarian countries. The arrests of young people in Gujarat for ignoring the PUBG Mobile ban reflects the social cost of punitive measures.
The premise that TikTok, a gaming app that lets users share their creativity in making short videos, memes, lip-synced songs and comedy clips, can be used to share pornographic images is a fallacy as such images, text and graphics can be shared with anyone on their contact list on any app. It's a different matter that Internet addiction and cyber games is harmful to the development of India's youth. Cyber addiction can be tackled only by adult supervision of youngsters' online activity, and guidance from schools. Regular advisories to schoolchildren and parents about the dangers of open Internet interaction that may prove addictive may be more useful than blanket bans. The courts may be well-meaning, but they need to be in touch with reality.