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The Aftereffects Of A Social Media App Ban: The Demise Of India's TikTok

The Aftereffects Of A Social Media App Ban: The Demise Of India's TikTok
Before it was outlawed in 2020, TikTok was one of the most widely used applications in India. It serves as a warning for what can happen if a US ban is implemented.
India was the largest market for TikTok four years ago. The software promised 200 million users by the end of the year, vibrant subcultures, and occasionally transformative chances for influencers and producers. Up until terrible violence broke out due to simmering tensions on the border between China and India, TikTok appeared to be unstoppable.
On June 29, 2020, the Indian government banned the app following the border clash. TikTok vanished virtually without warning. However, Indian TikTok accounts and videos remain online, preserved in a moment when the app was just beginning to become a cultural powerhouse.
It may provide a sneak peek of future developments in the US in certain respects. After years of threats and unsuccessful legislation, President Joe Biden signed a measure into law on April 24 that may eventually prohibit TikTok from operating in the US, ushering in a new era. According to the law, Bytedance, the company that controls TikTok, must sell its share of the app within the next nine months, with an additional three months of grace, or risk having its operations banned from the nation. Bytedance has pledged to fight the law in court and states that it has no plans to sell the social media network.
A huge social media app being banned would be a first in American tech history, but TikTok's future is presently unknown due to an impending legal dispute. However, the example in India illustrates what might occur when a significant nation removes TikTok from its citizens' devices. Not only has India taken this action, but Nepal also said in November 2023 that TikTok will be banned, while Pakistan has imposed many interim bans since 2020. The tale of India's TikTok ban demonstrates that while users are adaptable, much of the platform's culture also vanishes with TikTok, as the 150 million US users of the app thumb through videos while it remains suspended.
When TikTok shut down, Mumbai-based film critic Sucharita Tyagi had amassed 11,000 followers and some of her videos had received millions of views.
"TikTok was huge. People were coming together all over the country, dancing, putting up skits, posting about how they run their homestead in their small town in the hills," says Tyagi. "There was a massive number of people who suddenly had this exposure that they had always been denied, but now it was possible."
Because of the way the app's algorithm allowed rural Indian people to acquire an audience and even achieve superstar status—something that was not feasible on other apps—it became a unique phenomenon.
Technology journalist and analyst Prasanto K Roy, who is located in New Delhi, claims that "it democratised content reaction for the first time." As time went on, we noticed that many of these really rural, low-income individuals would never have imagined becoming well-known or profitable from it. Additionally, users who want to watch it would receive it via TikTok's discovery system. It was unlike anything else that was available for hyper-local films."
In India, the authorities banned TikTok along with 58 other Chinese applications after it went offline.
Similar cultural importance surrounds TikTok in the US, where the app is the lifeblood of countless small companies and creators as well as thriving niche communities. This type of achievement is less common on other social media networks. For instance, Instagram tends to be more geared towards allowing people to consume material from accounts that have large followings, whereas TikTok is more focused on encouraging ordinary users to upload.
In India, the government banned TikTok along with 58 other Chinese applications, some of which are now becoming more and more popular in the US, such the Shein app for fashion shopping. Over the years, India banned more than a hundred Chinese applications; nevertheless, recent talks resulted in the release of an Indian version of Shein back online. 
In the US, the same thing may occur. The new regulation establishes a legal precedent and gives the US government the ability to remove other Chinese applications. Politicians' worries about TikTok's privacy and national security may also impact a number of other businesses.
Additionally, other apps may try to step in when a well-known one is taken down. "As soon as TikTok was banned, it opened up a multibillion-dollar opportunity," says Nikhil Pahwa, the founder of MediaNama, an Indian news site and digital policy expert. "Multiple Indian start-ups launched or pivoted to fill the gap."
The popular new Indian social media businesses Chingari, Moj, and MX Taka Tak dominated the Indian technology press for months. A few achieved early success, drawing celebrities from TikTok onto new platforms, obtaining funding and even official backing. That post-TikTok gold rush didn't last long, though, as the new applications fought for supremacy, splitting the Indian social market into many areas.
Soon after the TikTok suspension, in August 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, a short-form video stream. A month later, YouTube matched with Shorts, its own ripoff of TikTok features. With YouTube and Instagram already well-established in India, fresh start-ups had little chance of competing.
"A lot of the hype around TikTok alternatives faded away over time," states Prateek Waghre, executive director of the Indian advocacy organisation Internet Freedom Foundation. "In the end, the one that benefited the most was probably Instagram."
Although Instagram and YouTube have taken over TikTok's user base, they haven't been able to replicate the Indian platform's unique vibe.
It wasn't long before many of the most well-known Indian TikTok producers and their followers switched to Meta and Google's applications, where many of them saw comparable success.
For instance, Geet, an Indian social media influencer who goes only by her first name, became well-known on TikTok by teaching "American English" and offering motivational speeches and life advice. When TikTok was suspended, she had 10 million followers spread across three profiles.
In a 2020 interview, Geet expressed worries about her professional future with the BBC. However, she already has around five million YouTube and Instagram followers after four years.
The BBC spoke with consumers and experts, but they all agreed that something was lost in the post-TikTok shift. Although TikTok's user base was absorbed by Instagram and YouTube, the applications were unable to replicate the essence of Indian TikTok.
"TikTok was a comparatively different kind of user base as far as creators go," Pahwa explains. "People from rural villages, farmers, and bricklayers were posting films on TikTok.
That is less common on Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. The finding process on TikTok was extremely distinct."
The social media scene in the US may resemble that of India if TikTok is outlawed there. YouTube and Instagram have already made a name for themselves as places where short videos go four years after the prohibition. LinkedIn is also experimenting with a video stream that looks like TikTok.
Rivals of the app have demonstrated that they can succeed without trying to imitate TikTok's culture.
Similar to what happened in India, it's possible—if not likely—that America's hyper-local and specialty content will disappear. The cultural effects on the US would really be significantly more profound. According to the Pew Research Centre, over one-third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 obtain their news from TikTok.
Compared to India's 200 million peak TikTok users, the US has less subscribers, but India is home to 1.4 billion people. More than half of all Americans use TikTok, with 170 million users in the US, according to reports.
"When India banned TikTok, the app was not the behemoth that it is now," says Tyagi. "It has turned into a cultural revolution over the last few years. I think banning it now in America would have a much larger impact."
TikTok's reaction has already changed. The US government's new rule has the corporation vowing to fight back in court, maybe all the way to the US Supreme Court. TikTok had the option to file a comparable lawsuit challenging India's prohibition, but decided against it.
"Chinese companies have good reason to be hesitant to go to courts in India against the Indian government," Roy states. "I don't think they would find them to be very sympathetic."
The prohibition in India similarly went into force right away, within a few weeks. There is no guarantee that the legislation will withstand a legal struggle in the courts, and TikTok's impending legal action in the US might stall the law for years.
Furthermore, there is a far higher likelihood that a US TikTok ban would start a trade war. "I think there's a distinct possibility of reciprocity from China," Pahwa adds. Although China denounced India for prohibiting TikTok, there was no overt backlash. The US might not have it as good.
China's response to India's ban has several justifications. One is that China has virtually little presence of India's tech sector. Conversely, there are several prospects for a counterattack in America's tech sector. China has already started its campaign to "delete America" by substituting homegrown technology for that of the US. A ban on TikTok may accelerate that initiative.
"The TikTok ban was so sudden when it happened," says Tyagi. "For me it wasn't that big of a deal, I was just using the app to promote my other work. But it felt weird and unfair to a lot of people, especially people who were actually making money and getting brand deals."
Tyagi's livelihood was unaffected by losing TikTok, but she was unable to access her account. That is, until she travelled to the United States.
"When I visited America and l was surprised to see my profile was still active," Tyagi recounts. It like a journey through time. She uploaded other videos as well. Of course, the majority of her fans back home were unable to view them, but she did receive a little amount of engagement from Indian expatriates.
"All these millions of accounts are still there," Tyagi asserts. The fact that TikTok retained them is interesting. I wonder whether they're expecting to return to India."

Christopher J. Mitchell

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