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Youtube capture of a young Tik Tok user. Photo: Youtube

Indonesia bans Chinese video app Tik Tok for ‘inappropriate content’

Tik Tok is popular among teenagers but some content has caused controversy

Indonesian authorities said on Wednesday they had banned Chinese video app Tik Tok for containing “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy”.

The ban, which went into effect on Tuesday, is temporary and can be lifted after Tik Tok scrubs its content, said Minister of Communications and Information Rudiantara, who uses one name. Tik Tok, popular among young people for its quirky videos, was the most downloaded app in the Apple app store globally in the first quarter of 2018.

It is operated by venture-backed Toutiao, valued at more than US$30 billion according to sources and one of China’s fastest-growing tech start-ups. Toutiao, also known as ByteDance Technology, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

“The app has a lot of negative and harmful content, especially for children,” said Rudiantara.

“Once Tik Tok can give us guarantees they can maintain clean content, it can reopen.”

The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation has stepped up efforts to control online content after a rise in hoax stories and hate speech, and amid controversial anti-pornography laws pushed by Islamic parties. Indonesia threatened last year to block Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger, unless obscene Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images provided by third parties were removed.

Tik Tok, which is known as Douyin in China, said in June that its monthly active users in mainland China reached 300 million, reflecting a strong showing since the short video app was launched in 2016. ByteDance said Douyin has grown its user base beyond the traditional Gen Z category, with more than 40 per cent of mainland users now aged between 24 and 30 years old.

However, the short video industry has also faced pressure in China over the suitability of content and safeguards for minors. China’s media watchdog in April ordered news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and live-streaming app Kuaishou to clean up content on their platforms, just days after state media criticised both platforms for hosting misleading medical advertisements and inappropriate content.

Toutiao and Kuaishou were ordered to remove content that was “vulgar, violent, gory, pornographic and harmful” from its sites, and they were banned from letting new users register while the platforms conducted checks on existing users.

ByteDance came under fire in May from cybersecurity experts for a lack of privacy settings on Tik Tok after a South China Morning Post investigation found that hundreds of Hong Kong children as young as nine were exposing their identities on the platform.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Tik Tok video app barred in Indonesia