Home Business Govt concerned over TikTok content, intermediary status

Govt concerned over TikTok content, intermediary status

TikTok puts watermark on some videos, while others don’t have it.

Popular Chinese short-video app TikTok may face government scrutiny for content “harmful to Indian society, culture and security”, with officials telling Moneycontrol that they were taking stock of the videos posted on the platform.

The officials have raised questions over the content strategy of Chinese internet company ByteDance-owned TikTok. There are certain videos when downloaded have the TikTok logo or the watermark, while some don’t.

“How is it possible that some videos have the logo and others don’t… there should be consistency,” a ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) official said. “A logo or a watermark on a video shows association with the content.”

TikTok, which has 200 million monthly active users in India, is trying to shun its image of a platform that hosts objectionable content.

Many times videos that can endanger life, such as those of stunts involving dangerous acts, or the ones that are considered obscene or violent don’t carry the watermark. At the same time, videos with social messages like that on plastic ban or comedy or Bollywood or by an influencer bear the TikTok logo.

“Things have to be in line with Indian rules of being an intermediary,” said the Meity official. There was a confusion between original content and user-generated content.

An intermediary allows users to create their own content and post it on the platform, without being liable for the quality or nature of content that is being shared or posted. Intermediaries are protected under law,” the official said.

According to Section 79 of the IT Act, “intermediaries are exempted from liability for third-party information or communication links made available or hosted by them subject to certain conditions.”

The law, however, also says that the intermediary will be held responsible if it has “conspired or abetted or aided or induced the commission of an unlawful act”.

When reached for comment, a TikTok spokesperson said in an email, “This is purely a marketing practice purely for promotional purposes to promote TikTok on other platforms and redirect new users to TikTok.”

“TikTok, as an intermediary, does not exercise editorial control around any of the content generated by any of its users, nor is it involved in any capacity other than being a host and enabler. As a user generated-content platform, we do not exercise any editorial control over the content on our platform,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson, however, did clarify that “we may choose to collaborate with some creators, to promote usage of the platform, make the platform more vibrant and encourage full realisation of the potential of the platform”.

It would help in sharing the content with all other TikTok users and to popularise the platform, the email said.

TikTok on October 17 launched an education programme in India to expand its offering, a move seen as an attempt to pacify local authorities.

The company also said it was working with content creators to post videos about children’s education, health and wellness, among others.

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