Monday, 2023 September 25

India bans another 43 Chinese apps citing cybersecurity concerns

India on Tuesday banned another 43 Chinese apps in its fourth similar move, targeting apps from Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent in addition to a bevy of dating apps with some catering to the LGBT community.

These apps include Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce app AliExpress, streaming app WeTV from Tencent, short video platform Snack Video, and logistics service Lalamove India. The latest move expanded the South Asian nation’s Chinese apps hit list to a total of 267.

In a statement, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it blocked the access of these apps by users in India based on “the comprehensive reports it received from Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center,” which operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“This action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” it said.

The order was issued under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which gives the central government the power to block access to any website or app, if it finds their content objectionable. Meaning it either threatens the sovereignty and security of the country or friendly relations with foreign states or public order.

Some of the apps being blocked in the latest blacklist have been growing well in India, the second-most-populous country in the world and one of the fastest-growing internet markets.

For instance, Chinese short video app Snack Video attracted millions of Indian users since the TikTok ban. A report by local media Entrackr, citing data from Sensor Tower, said Snack Video registered 190 million downloads since June 29 out of which India contributed 154 million. It garnered 35 million downloads from the country in the last 30 days, the highest amongst all short video apps in the country, the report added.

India first started blocking access to Chinese apps in the wake of a stand-off with China in the Himalayan border area.

The first such order, issued in late June, caught everyone by surprise as it banned 59 apps including globally popular Chinese short video app TikTok, citing cybersecurity and data privacy concerns. A month later, India released a follow-up list of apps that were the clones of previously banned apps including Xiaomi’s popular web browser, Mi Browser Pro.

Interestingly, the government did not issue any separate statement on the same, but state-owned media DD News reported the development. In September, India blocked 118 more apps from China including popular gaming app PUBG Mobile, which was then distributed by Tencent, again citing data security concerns.

The development comes at a time when the government seems to be moving toward increased censorship of online content. Earlier this month, it tightened its grip on online streaming platforms as well as digital media by bringing them under its purview.

In a notification on November 12, the government said  “films and audio-visual programs made available by online content providers” and “news and current affairs content on online platforms,” would now be regulated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcast, which overseas TV programs and movies that are released in theaters. Just last week, a member of the ruling party, BJP, filed a case against Netflix, on the grounds that its recently aired series “A Suitable Boy” is offensive to Hindu beliefs. The series shows onscreen kissing scenes on the premises of a Hindu temple.

Moulishree Srivastava
Moulishree Srivastava
In-depth, analytical and explainer stories and interviews on technology, internet economy, investments, climate tech and sustainability. Coverage of business strategies, trends in startup and VC ecosystems and cross-border stories capturing the influence of SEA, China and Japan on the local startup industry.

Related Read