TikTok’s spreading fake news, MPs say in house

Bengaluru: Chinese short-video app TikTok shares user data of Indians with China and helps spread “fake news” and “malicious content” in the country, two parliamentarians alleged on Thursday, after another member of Parliament made a similar claim earlier this week.

Pinaki Mishra, the Biju Janata Dal MP from Puri, and Jayadev Galla of the Telugu Desam Party representing the Guntur constituency, raised these concerns in Parliament about Chinese startup Byte-Dance, which is the parent of Tik-Tok and regional language social networking app Helo. It is one of the most valued startups globally. “India has a neighbour who is hell-bent on collecting data and information from India. This is not going to benefit India but (it’s) for their own benefit, their future,” Mishra said, urging the government to implement a data protection law.

Galla, an industrialist in Andhra Pradesh, also called for a ban on TikTok and similar applications that pose a threat to India and its democratic process. Mishra said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) economic wing — Swadeshi Jagran Manch — had written a letter to PM Narendra Modi on how ByteDance engaged in “nefarious” activities.

“Information and data are the new oil of the 21st century. This is how society is going to be driven forward. So, whoever controls data will be in a powerful position to control our lives,” he said. “Can you imagine the amount of information and data being collected by them?”

TikTok did not respond to ET’s queries on the fresh charges.

On Monday, Shashi Tharoor, the Congress Party’s MP from Thiruvananthapuram, claimed TikTok was illegally collecting data and sending it to China. TikTok refuted the allegation, saying it abides by local laws in the markets that it operates in.

In April, the Madras High Court had ordered an interim ban on new downloads of the TikTok application, acting on a petition that alleged it was “dangerous” to children. The ban was later lifted.

TikTok has about 120 million monthly active users in India and is giving tough competition to Facebook, Instagram and ShareChat, an Indian startup. Helo, with 50 million monthly active users, directly competes with ShareChat.

India’s data protection Bill is still in the draft stage nine months after the first version was released by the Srikrishna Committee.

The Bill lays down rules on collecting, processing and storing data. It has proposed that personal critical data of Indian citizens should be stored only within the country.