In the wake of India’s deepening mistrust of all things China amid a bitter border feud, the Modi government yesterday executed a ban on 59 Chinese apps with TikTok Banned in a dramatic move that may have been in the making for some time.
Top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo, and WeChat came under the ambit of the ban, giving a serious jolt to China’s dream of setting up a Digital Silk Route.
Even as the sudden ban left TikTok’s Indian fans high and dry, there was palpable relief among the users of PUBG — the highly-addictive, world-famous game that has held millions in India in thrall since its inception.
This relief, however, is not wholly unmixed as there remains the prospect of the ban being expanded to cover more apps in a possible next round. A lot of questions are being raised in various online forums as to why PUBG escaped the government’s wrath while TikTok could not. Here we try to find out the possible reasons.
No overwhelming China footprint
Most people may not know it, but PUBG was not made in China.
The online battle royale game was developed by an arm of South Korean video game maker Bluehole — the now-famous PUBG Corp. It was only after the game swept the world off its feet that Chinese giant Tencent Holdings came into the picture as its distributor.
After the product conquered the Chinese market in no time, Tencent brought it to India. And the rest is history.
But despite an undeniable Chinese footprint in PUBG’s marketing, the product still retains its mixed-owner character. According to some insiders, its Korean origin is what may have saved PUBG in Round 1 of the Modi government’s China purge.
It could mean that China making investments in, or manufacturing, a product is probably not be regarded as a basis for banning by India.
Will Round 2 be different? There is no certainty yet. For now, life goes on as usual for PUBG’s India legion.
No imminent danger?
“Red flags from the intel” was the logic the government gave when it announced the decision.
The ban was put in place under Section 69A of the IT Act read with relevant provisions of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.
The reasoning given by the government was that these 59 apps are “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.” The order also talked of plaints about data on Indian users being transferred abroad without authorization.
Insiders believe that PUBG also must have been put through the security scanner by the sleuths, but that it must have passed the test for the time being. Some also say that data theft is the one and only basis for the ban, and that is why the notification was from the IT ministry, and not from the ministry of trade.