TikTok and some 50 other Chinese apps are being blocked in India due to cybersecurity concerns. (AP … [+] Photo)ASSOCIATED PRESS
China and India are breaking up. Or so it seems. And with it, so goes the BRICS coalition. That thing is on its last legs, I would assume at this point. If they’re not shooting at each other over a rocky border in India’s north, they are now fighting over smart phone applications. India’s on offense.
On Monday, 16-year old broadcaster India TV was first to report that dozens of Chinese apps could no longer be downloaded in India, including QQ News Feed, Baidu BIDU maps, WeChat and the globally ubiquitous app TikTok.
India’s Ministry of Information Technology said the decision was based on the Information Technology Act’s concerns over spyware and other security issues by foreign app developers.
“The Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” the Ministry of Information said in a statement today.
We don’t know who those sources are.
In a story from last week, a techie who reverse engineered TikTok said he discovered that the app stored data from Apple AAPL devices, mainly items that were cut and pasted or stuck in clipboard files.
TikTok said it did not and does not store user data. At least not on purpose…
“Following the beta release of iOS14 on June 22, users saw notifications while using a number of popular apps,” TikTok said in a statement. “This was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior. We submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.”
Jeremy Burge, the founder of Emojipedia, shared video of Apple’s new notification on Twitter last week which led to more official calls to remove TikTok from U.S. smartphones.
“TikTok is grabbing the contents of my clipboard every 1-3 keystrokes,” he wrote. “iOS 14 is snitching on it with the new paste notification.”
Although India attacked over 50 Chinese apps, many of which are not used in the U.S., with the exception of WeChat, TikTok has become as big a punching bag as Huawei.
New York Senator Charles Schumer: TikTok should be banned in the U.S. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, … [+] File)ASSOCIATED PRESS
TikTok has been in Washington’s crosshairs for over a year. Last October, in a letter to the Director of National Intelligence at the time, Joseph Maguire, two men who never see eye to eye on anything, at least publicly, Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton, called TikTok a national security problem. They want it removed from your kids cell phone.
With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, “TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” the two Senators wrote. “Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.”
So far, no briefings yet.
India’s got Washington beat.
Activists on TikTok were blamed for fooling the Trump Campaign into thinking they had sold nearly 800,000 tickets to the President’s Tulsa campaign rally. Instead, only around 7,000 people reportedly showed up, with empty seats galore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official page on Chinese social media website Weibo went blank on Wednesday with the removal of his photograph and all 115 posts made over the past five years.
Also read: Government bans 59 apps including China-based TikTok, WeChat
Mr. Modi initiated the process to exit Weibo following the Union government’s decision to ban 59 Chinese apps. The government on Monday decided to impose the ban on the apps, including Weibo, citing threats to data security and the sovereignty of India.
This marks a sudden end to Mr. Modi’s “Weibo diplomacy” in China that was launched with much fanfare in 2015 as a means to directly communicate with the people of China before his first visit there as Prime Minister. His first message said, “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo”. The Indian Embassy said at the time this was “a first of a kind attempt by any leader across India.” Mr. Modi had 2.44 lakh followers.
On Tuesday, Mr. Modi’s photograph was removed from his official page, and only two posts of the 115 he posted over the past five years remained. Both had photographs of Mr. Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Also read: After ban, TikTok invited by govt. to submit clarification
It took two days for the last posts to be removed. According to government officials handling the matter, the procedure to exit Weibo was “complex” for official and verified accounts such as Mr. Modi’s and an official process was initiated. The officials said the process was delayed “for reasons best known” to the Chinese side.
“Prime Minister Modi had 115 posts on Weibo. It was decided to manually delete them and after much effort, 113 posts were removed,” said a source. “There were two posts left where Prime Minister Modi and these are posts with photos with President Xi. On Weibo, it is difficult to remove posts with the photo of the Chinese President. Which is why, two posts still remained,” said a source.
Editorial | Control, not delete: On China apps ban
PM was not very active on Weibo
Mr. Modi posted infrequently on Weibo, with 115 posts in five years, although his annual posts on the international day of yoga usually received wide attention in China. Among his most forwarded posts were his birthday greetings to President Xi conveyed every year.
On June 20, three statements by the Indian Embassy on the recent border tensions posted on its account on WeChat, another popular social media app, were removed by Chinese authorities. A message following the removal said the posts were taken down for violating regulations. Social media in China are subjected to extensive censorship regime. Among the foreign sites blocked in China are WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Data | Is an economic boycott of China feasible for India?
Chinese reaction to apps ban
On Tuesday, China hit out at the move by India to block 59 apps. It described the action as “a deliberate interference in practical cooperation” between the two countries.
China’s State media warned that the move would bring economic repercussions, such as affecting outbound Chinese investment into India.
In separate statements issued by its Foreign Ministry and Embassy in New Delhi, Beijing called on India to review the move. “India’s measure, selectively and discriminatorily aims at certain Chinese apps on ambiguous and far-fetched grounds, runs against fair and transparent procedure requirements, abuses national security exceptions, and suspects of violating the WTO rules,” the Embassy said. “It also goes against the general trend of international trade and E-commerce, and is not conducive to consumer interests and the market competition in India.”
Also read: Ladakh face-off | Status quo at Pangong Tso has been changed, says Colonel Dinny (retd.)
The ban was one of the most discussed topics on Chinese social media this week. In an editorial, the Communist Party-run Global Times slammed what it said was “a lacklustre explanation for the nonsensical move”. “If India’s sovereignty can be damaged by a handful of apps, just how vulnerable is it?” the paper said. “It was not long before Indians realised that turning nationalist rhetoric into action is more difficult, as there are no available and affordable alternatives to Chinese-made products such as smartphones, chemicals, automotive components and many other items… It seems that not only has the Modi government failed to rein in the rising nationalism among Indians, it has also yielded to domestic pressure and even encouraged such a boycott to escalate.”
Dip in investment
The newspaper said it had conducted a survey of experts who “predicted Chinese overseas direct investment (ODI) into India will drop sharply in 2020, with two experts forecasting a more than 50 per cent cut.”
Also read: China demands India’s withdrawal from Galwan Valley
“Bad feelings go both ways, and the chance for China-India relationship to pick up in the short-term is slim. Chinese investors are on the edge with risk-aversion instinct kicking in,” Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the paper, adding that the coming year would not only see a 50 per cent fall in Chinese investments in India, but would be “a turning point” in economic relations.
China said on Tuesday (June 30) it is “concerned” about India’s decision to ban Chinese mobile apps like TikTok.
It comes after India’s strongest move yet to target China in the online space since a border crisis erupted between the two countries earlier in June.
India banned 59 mostly Chinese mobile apps on Monday (June 29), removing the likes of TikTok and WeChat from Google and Apple stores.
The government order said the apps posed a “threat to sovereignty”, but didn’t name China or mention the border clashes.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
“China is strongly concerned about the relevant notice issued by the Indian side. We are checking on and verifying the situation.”
The ban may have derailed a $1 billion Indian investment plan for China’s ByteDance, which owns TikTok.
India is TikTok’s top growth market and makes up 30% of its 2 billion downloads worldwide.
Many Indian TikTok users posted videos expressing their unhappiness after the ban was announced.
Sweety Singh is a TikTok user in India.
“The decision has been taken due to the tension between India and China and it is correct but I would like to say this to the government that some Indian applications should be launched through which people like us, who used to make a living out of TikTok, do not face problems.”
TikTok said in a statement the Indian government had invited the company to respond to the ban.
App analytics firm Sensor Tower said the 59 banned apps were all of Chinese origin.
They also said these apps had recorded around 4.9 billion downloads in India since January 2014.
– China said on Tuesday it’s concerned about India’s decision to ban Chinese mobile apps like TikTok. It comes after India’s strongest move yet to target China in the online space, since the border crisis erupted between the two countries earlier in June. India banned 59 mostly-Chinese mobile apps on Monday, removing the likes of TikTok and WeChat from Google and Apple stores. The government order said the apps posed a threat to sovereignty, but didn’t name China or mention the border clashes. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
INTERPRETER: China is strongly concerned about the relevant notice issued by the Indian side. We are checking on it and verifying the situation.
– The ban may have derailed the $1 billion Indian investment plan for Chinese ByteDance, which owns TikTok. India is TikTok’s top growth market, and makes up 30% of its 2 billion downloads worldwide. Many Indian TikTok users posted videos expressing their unhappiness after the ban was announced. Sweety Singh is a TikTok user in India.
INTERPRETER: The decision has been taken due to the tension between India and China, and it is correct. But I would like to say this to the government, that some Indian applications should be launched through which people like us who used to make a living out of TikTok do not face problems.
– TikTok said in a statement the Indian government had invited the company to respond to the ban. At analytics firm SensorTower said the 59 banned apps were all of Chinese origin. They also said these apps had recorded around 4.9 billion downloads in India since January 2014.
India has banned a total of 59 apps that are linked to China on the grounds of ensuring safe cyberspace in the country. The list, released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Monday evening, has some big names that have been blocked, including ByteDance’s TikTok, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, Tencent’s WeChat, and Alibaba’s UC Browser among 55 others. One of the biggest markets for TikTok is India, which has over 200 million users in India, has said it is talking to the government over the unprecedented moratorium, while other companies have remained mum so far.
The MeitY has cited these 59 apps were “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of state and public order.” This would mean that access to all the apps needs to curbed from the server-side, in addition to their removal from app marketplaces.
To ensure an effective ban on these apps, the government will have to ask the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block the app servers on both cellular and broadband networks. Only after the access of these apps to the internet servers of the ISPs is blocked, these apps will not effectively work. However, it will be interesting to see how the government enforces the ban on the VPN service providers, whose tools can be used to access the apps after they have been banned.
Queries sent to Airtel, Reliance Jio, and COAI remained unanswered at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, India-based companies have lauded the government’s decision to uproot Chinese apps from India’s internet ecosystem — a move that will be formative in the emergence of homegrown apps to the mainstream. Apps such as Chingari and Mitron have already made headlines when they posed as better and more secure alternatives to TikTok. The apps were removed from Google Play store over some copyright issues but the apps have been reinstated now.
So, if TikTok has Chingari and Mitron as its substitute, what alternatives do other popular apps have? Shareit, the tool that is widely used for file transfers between different platforms, can be replaced by the likes of SendGB and JioSwitch. The Mi Community app may not have an alike stablemate but its counterpart would be WhatsApp, ShareChat, and Telegram. UC Browser is a browser to access the internet, which means you can easily replace it with Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera Mini on your Android and iOS devices.
WeChat, particularly, is an app that works both in India and China but it is the only medium to communicate with someone in mainland China from outside of it since apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Messenger do not work there. It remains to be seen what alternative India’s developer community comes with for such a purpose.