Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, social media platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp are taking steps to tackle the spread of fake news. On March 27, TikTok announced the creation of a localised version of ‘Safety Centre’ in 10 Indian languages.
According to the app, a ‘Safety Centre’ is a local website that consists of safety policies, tools and resources to equip users with “product education” and “protection measures”. The safety centres are available in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Oriya. They will also make available two resource pages to tackle anti-bullying as well as an advisory for the upcoming general elections.
Helena Lersch, Director, Global Public Policy, TikTok, said in a statement,
“Since the launch of TikTok in India, we have seen phenomenal user growth. With the launch of our localised Safety Centre along with our resource pages for anti-bullying and the general elections, we aim to reaffirm our commitment to India and ensure a safe and positive online environment.”
TikTok is a Chinese social video app that allows users to create short videos which can be synced with an existing sound byte – often a song, or a movie dialogue. It was also one of the most downloaded apps of 2018 on both Android and Apple devices.
In February, Tamil Nadu’s IT minister M Manigandan said that the state government was initiating a dialogue with the Centre on banning TikTok. He said the step was being taken “in view of its application to circulate extreme content, particularly among a younger demographic of netizens”. Some countries and organisations have banned or are in the process of banning the app. In 2018, Indonesia banned the video app after a rise in hate speech and hoax stories. Children’s charity Barnardo, based out of UK, warned how children—as young as eight—risk being sexually exploited on TikTok.
Users can also now use the app in ‘restricted mode’ that allows them to restrict content that might not be age-appropriate. Similar to PUBG, TikTok has also enabled the ‘digital wellness’ feature which limits the number of hours users spend on the screen.