SC directs Madras HC to decide plea against TikTok ban on April 24

  1. The Supreme Court has asked the Madras High Court to hear and decide on April 24 a plea to lift its prohibition on TikTok. The SC has said that if the Madras high court fails to decide on the plea, then its ban order will be lifted.
  2. TikTok is an app that allows users to create and share short videos with special effects. The app was launched in 2018 and has around 120 million active users in India. The parent company of TikTok is China-based ByteDance. The Indian operator and marketer of the app is ByteDance Technology Pvt Ltd.
  3. Earlier in April, The Madras High Court directed the state authorities to prohibit downloading of TikTok app. It had also prohibited media from telecasting the videos made using the app. The court’s decision was based on the grounds that that the app was inappropriate for children and exposed them to several dangers.
  4. The HC had taken cognisance of the fact that countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh had banned TikTok. It had also asked the Centre whether an Act similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of the U.S. could be enacted. The US Act aims at preventing children from becoming victims of cyber and online crimes.
  5. Later, the Madras High Court did not accept the request of the Bytedance Technology Pvt Ltd to suspend the ban imposed. Bytedance had then approached the Supreme Court and had contended that HC order was passed without hearing them.
  6. The company has that the order was a violation of the right to free speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution.
  7. Further, it has been argued that the app is an intermediary as per Section 2(w) of the Information Technology (IT) Act. Thus, it cannot be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform as mentioned in section 79 of the IT Act.
  8. The IT Act defines an intermediary as any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores, or transmits that electronic record or provides any service with respect to that record.