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India bans 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, Helo, WeChat


New Delhi | Bengaluru: The government banned 59 Chinese mobile applications, including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat, to counter the threat posed by these applications to the country’s “sovereignty and security,” it said in a press release late on Monday. ShareIT, UC browser and shopping app Clubfactory are among the other prominent apps that have been blocked amid rising tensions between India and China following clashes at the border two weeks ago.

The government said the applications are engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.” The ban has been imposed under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, it said. The government also cited complaints about data on Indian users being transferred abroad without authorisation.

The move could come as a blow to China’s Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding the valuation of the companies. It could also lead to more countries following India’s cue and acting against these apps, sources told ET.

A top official said the government had considered all aspects before taking the decision. “These apps have been there for a long time, and there are some privacy and security issues with them including risks of data going out of the country,” said the person.

The statement from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) said it had received complaints from various sources, including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers outside India.

Ban Recommended by MHA

“The compilation of the data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said. “There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country.”

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has sent an “exhaustive recommendation for blocking the malicious apps,” the press release said.

The Internet Freedom Foundation said, “This is not a legal order issued under Section 69A. Our first ask is transparency and disclosure.” The activist group tweeted such cases needed to be considered individually and not in the aggregate.

“There is legitimacy in concerns of data security and citizens’ privacy,” it said. “This may be achieved through regulatory processes that emerge from objective, evidence based measures. This ensures credible action that protects individual liberty, innovation & security interests.”

Spokespeople for ByteDance, the owners of TikTok and Helo, and Alibaba, which owns UC Browser, said they could not comment immediately.

‘WELCOME MOVE’

InMobi, the ad tech company that owns Roposo, a video app that competes with TikTok, said the move would open up the market for its platform while ShareChat, the Indian social network, welcomed the government’s move.

Bolo Indya, a rival to TikTok, says it will benefit from the ban on its larger rival. “We welcome the decision as we resonate the concerns raised by the government. This is the opportunity for Bolo Indya and other Indian apps to deliver value, keeping Indian culture and data security at the highest priority,” said its co-founder and CEO Varun Saxena.

‘LEGALLY SOUND’

Analysts said the move will impact the Chinese apps.

“From a tactical perspective, it puts enormous economic pressure because these apps were heavily reliant on Indian markets. From a legal perspective, it is sound because grounds like national security are difficult to challenge in a court of law,” said Santosh Pai, partner at Link Legal, who tracks Chinese investments in the country. “If this is going to be the new state of affairs, we need to see whether Indian apps will fulfil the need or American apps will take market share.”

Investors in Indian social apps say that competition will come down due to the ban on Chinese apps.

“The competitive threat will go down. But a lot of apps in India are inspired by the deft engineering of Chinese apps. Overall the ecosystem’s ingenuity will slow down,” said Deepak Gupta, founding partner at WEH Ventures, which has invested in Indian video blogging platform Trell.

Here’s the complete list of the apps banned:

1. TikTok

2. Shareit

3. Kwai

4. UC Browser

5. Baidu map

6. Shein

7. Clash of Kings

8. DU battery saver

9. Helo

10. Likee

11. YouCam makeup

12. Mi Community

13. CM Browers

14. Virus Cleaner

15. APUS Browser

16. ROMWE

17. Club Factory

18. Newsdog

19. Beutry Plus

20. WeChat

21. UC News

22. QQ Mail

23. Weibo

24. Xender

25. QQ Music

26. QQ Newsfeed

27. Bigo Live

28. SelfieCity

29. Mail Master

30. Parallel Space

31. Mi Video Call – Xiaomi

32. WeSync

33. ES File Explorer

34. Viva Video – QU Video Inc

35. Meitu

36. Vigo Video

37. New Video Status

38. DU Recorder

39. Vault- Hide

40. Cache Cleaner DU App studio

41. DU Cleaner

42. DU Browser

43. Hago Play With New Friends

44. Cam Scanner

45. Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile

46. Wonder Camera

47. Photo Wonder

48. QQ Player

49. We Meet

50. Sweet Selfie

51. Baidu Translate

52. Vmate

53. QQ International

54. QQ Security Center

55. QQ Launcher

56. U Video

57. V fly Status Video

58. Mobile Legends

59. DU Privacy

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