The recent decision of the Indian govt banning 59 Chinese apps is due to section 69A of the IT Act which lets the government block websites to protect the interests of the country without announcing them, said digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa to BOOM.
Nikhil Pahwa, founder of mobile and digital news portal MediaNama also added that this was the first time the government had announced its measures to block access to these Chinese apps. This clearly suggests that the government is making a political statement with the announcement in response to the deadly battle between India and China at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and several injured.
Pahwa adds that this is the first time he is seeing a press release on Section 69A. "We've been calling for the removal of the secrecy for a while. They wanted people to know that these apps have been banned."
The accelerated speed at which the order was issued is also new, remarks Pahwa. Generally, an emergency order would have been issued, and usually, there are meetings between the platforms and the government, but this time the platforms were banned immediately," he said.
Pahwa and Blaise Fernandes, Director, Gateway House, discussed the government's move to ban 59 Chinese apps because of the rising tensions at the Indo-China border at Ladakh.
Blaise Fernandes, Director of Gateway House, a foreign policy think tank, said that the World Trade Organisation has given all sovereign states the power to do whatever they deem proper economically to protect their integrity in an event of border skirmishes. So the ban can be termed as a good move as they can be used to promote strategic propaganda, said Fernandes. Even US has ring-fenced these apps - which means if you are a government employee, you cannot have any of these apps on your phone.
Byte Dance, which owns TikTok has an office in India. But according to Pahwa, it doesn't make a difference for companies that are originating in China. "This happens in most businesses, that they have a sales office in India, but the content is controlled outside India. There is implicit or explicit control of China over its apps," said Pahwa.
"India has taken this decision to prevent these apps from influencing narrative," Pahwa added.
But the government is trying to make sure the economy is not impacted. "If you notice, the govt. has not banned economic activity apps where Chinese companies have stake or investments, like Byju's because that impacts consumers on a day-to-day basis," said Fernandes.
For people who are looking for alternatives to Chinese apps, Pahwa exercises a word of caution. He said, "If you are looking at alternatives to Chinese Apps, be careful about what you download. While you might be tempted to download the Indian apps, global alternatives offer better security as they get attacked more."
-The government publicly announcing that 59 Chinese apps have been banned is a political statement.
-The government hasn't banned apps that affect consumer and economic activity.
-Global alternatives to Chinese apps offer better security
Catch the full interview on YouTube or click on the link here.