Chinese short video app TikTok removed nearly 135,000 videos from its platform in 1.5 years of its operations in India, its parent Bytedance told the government.
In response to a specific question on how TikTok dealt with abuse on its platform between January 2017 and June 2019, Bytedance said it received 1.7 million complaints against content, from both users and legal channels. It took down 134,844 videos.
Of the 700,257 accounts that were reported, 181,926 were permanently banned. Currently, India is TikTok’s largest market, with more than 200 million users; the US is the second-largest market.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had asked TikTok and its sister app Helo a set of 24 questions in July, threatening to ban these apps if it did not receive appropriate responses.
The action followed a complaint by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) to the Prime Minister.
TikTok also said it did not publish transparency reports such as big technology firms Facebook, Google, Microsft and so on, but was in the process of doing so.
The ministry had also asked TikTok to specify the kind of information requested by law enforcement agencies.
“Law enforcement agencies have sought information mainly with regard to user details such as registered mobile number, email, other social media accounts associated with TikTok, internet protocol (IP) addresses tagged to activities of users. From January to mid-July this year, we have received 127 such requests,” TikTok said.
Bytedance also said on receiving such a request, TikTok collates details based on the information shared with them.
“A majority of the requests have been serviced within three hours. An initial non-automated response is sent within 15 minutes of the receipt of a request. We understand from our interaction from these agencies in India that we have the fastest average response times in the industry,” it added.
According to sources, Bytedance has been having regular conversations with the government after submitting these responses.
In response to a question on whether Helo spent money on 11,000 morphed political ads on other social media platforms as reported in the run up to general election, Bytedance said, “These political news articles were not created by our company, but was instead material in the public domain that was posted on Helo by its users, and picked up for the advertisement by automated ad tools.”
Bytedance also provided detailed responses to a question on whether it complies with the definition of an intermediary under the Information Technology (Intermediary Rules) 2011.
TikTok has been in the eye of a storm in India especially since the beginning of this year, mostly because of content deemed objectionable by users and law enforcement agencies alike. In April, TikTok was taken off Google and Apple app stores for a week following an order by the Madras High Court to ban the app.
In July, Bytedance, the world’s most valuable start-up, said it would set up a data centre in India within 18 months as part of the $1 billion it has committed to the Indian market.