Banning TikTok not a solution, need to amend IT Act: NCW chief

The videos that have surfaced on the app not only trivialise the crimes against women but also have adolescent children enacting them.

ByteDance has been reportedly seeking $30 billion for TikTok’s US operations. Representational image: iStock

Video-sharing platform TikTok has time and again been in the eye of controversy for its objectionable content and is yet again in trouble with the National Commission for Women (NCW) seeking a ban on it for its misogynistic content and glorifying crimes against women like rape and acid attack.

The videos that have surfaced not only trivialise the crime, what’s appalling is the adolescent children enacting them. TikTok videos have also been criticised for propagating violence against a particular religion and for cruelty towards animals.

Speaking to The Federal, Rekha Sharma, Chairperson, NCW, who has in the last few days been raising the red flag against the app in India, says that while she stands for the ban, she is also focused on getting amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act.

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Rekha has been heading the commission for over two years now and points out, “A lot has changed in the space of internet since the IT Act came into effect and we now need broader guidelines. We at NCW have suggested that the government acts on this, with a consultation on the Act to see what changes need to be made. The platforms are dynamic and keep changing; they need to be reviewed time and again.”

While the NCW has been getting the objectionable content removed and users suspended, Rekha admits that the solution is not in banning them alone.

“We cannot be gatekeepers all the time, looking into every video and flagging the objectionable ones for attention by the owners. In fact, we have also been asking the platform what checks are in place to ensure such videos are not shared on them. Having said that I also think we should hold parents responsible for the objectionable content and they should monitor their minor children with mobile phones,” she adds.

Related news: Has Tiktok become a new platform for gender expression?

The flak that TikTok has been receiving has led to the downgrading of the app from 4.5 stars to 1.3 in a few days, even though the app has about a billion users, 119 million active users are from India.

Some also see this as a tug of war between various applications, with concerted efforts being made to malign TikTok.

The app has received support from some who claim that the app has immense popularity among the lower rung in society and is probably being targeted for that.

Dismissing such observations, Rekha says that it would be incorrect to discriminate applications based on who is using them.

“Are they saying that these people do not have sensibilities and responsibilities since they come from a particular section? Any user on any platform has a responsibility towards society,” she adds.

She also refutes that the attack on TikTok is motivated by the prevalent animosity towards China, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

“NCW or I am not here for any kind of diplomatic statement. Maybe people have these sentiments, but I am not here to reflect them and I am merely looking at the content of the videos and calling them out. I believe that today we are a small world and everyone needs everyone,” she adds.

The NCW has received criticism in the past for not being a proactive body even as it has a range of powers like scrutinising laws and policies and seeking improvements; and looking at complaints and taking suo motu notice of matters.

While Rekha through the NCW has been in the centre of the fight against TikTok, she also maintains that the commission is aiming to play a more proactive role with concerted efforts towards ensuring the safety of women.

Related news: Jaipur youth paraded naked for shooting TikTok video with minor girl

“We have one cell that is looking into these complaints and acting on them, while we also do capacity building on women, seminars, and awareness programs. We are working very closely to gender sensitise police and we are doing seminars on entrepreneurship among women.

The NCW is also for a closer role with the state commissions for women, even as they are guided by a separate Act. We have helped some of these commissions with financing and there are meetings with them every three months,” she adds.

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