Nepal is banning TikTok over hate content, officials say | ET REALITY


Nepal’s government said on Monday it would ban the popular social media app TikTok, saying the platform’s refusal to curb hate content was affecting “social harmony.”

TikTok has more than a billion users worldwide, so a ban from a Himalayan country with a population of around 30 million is unlikely to significantly affect the app, but it is another ominous sign for the company. Chinese ownership of broader efforts by governments around the world. world to restrict its use.

TikTok was one of dozens of Chinese apps that India banned in 2020, following a military standoff between the two countries in the Himalayas that remains unresolved. The app has also come under increased scrutiny and restrictions in the United States, Europe and Canada over concerns that sensitive user data is being shared with the Chinese government.

Nepal is caught between its two giant neighbors, but the concern has been less about China’s misuse and more about internal harmony. Officials cited the prevalence of content that they said stoked religious hatred, violence and sexual abuse and had sparked offline clashes, forcing curfews and the deployment of police.

Although the toxic content includes sexism and casteism, a particularly hot topic has been the virtual attacks on TikTok between Hindus, Muslims and some indigenous communities over the sacrifice of cows, which a large number of Hindus consider sacred.

“Our social harmony, our family structure and our family relationships are being disrupted by social media, by TikTok,” said Rekha Sharma, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Nepal, following the approval of the ban by the cabinet. ministers.

“The decision to ban TikTok will take effect immediately,” Sharma said, but telecom companies have yet to put the ban into effect and it was unclear when users would no longer have access.

Representatives for TikTok did not respond to requests for comment.

Nepali officials said they resorted to the ban after TikTok refused to address concerns about troubling content, even after being repeatedly approached by the government. He last raised the issue with TikTok representatives nine days ago, without success, said Narendra KC, adviser to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

He said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the country’s home minister, told the cabinet on Monday that removing individual videos would be technologically difficult for Nepali authorities, prompting him to propose a ban on the app itself.

TikTok’s popularity has especially increased in Nepal since the pandemic, reaching around 2.2 million active users.

Some users use the app to vent their anger against the government and politicians, and some journalists and activists expressed concern that the government was trying to curb freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting social harmony.

Taranath Dahal, founder of the Freedom Forum, which advocates for freedom of expression in Nepal, said the government’s process to ban the platform lacked transparency and expressed concern that the country was “also heading towards building a controlled society.” .

Dahal said the government had introduced a new directive for social media platforms just a few days ago, giving companies three months to comply with it. He said the decision to “abruptly” close a platform that was not significantly different from the others went against Nepal’s “image of liberal democracy.”

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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