The government has issued notices to popular Chinese social media apps TikTok and Helo along with a set of 24 questions regarding the alleged misuse of their platforms for "anti-national activities" in India, official sources said.
The Centre has warned these apps that they might face a ban if they do not submit appropriate responses by July 22, the sources added.
The action from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) follows a complaint by the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which had written to the Prime Minister alleging that these platforms are being used for anti-national and illegal activities.
When contacted, TikTok and Helo in a joint statement said India is one of their strongest markets and they will fully collaborate with the government to meet their obligations.
Meity has sought reply from TikTok and Helo on allegation that these platforms have become "a hub of anti-national activities", and has sought assurance that the data of Indian users are not being transferred and will not be transferred in future "to any other foreign government or any third party or private entity", according to sources.
Meity has also sought response on the initiatives being taken to check fake news and steps being taken to be compliant under Indian laws.
The IT ministry has asked Helo to reply on allegations that it paid a huge sum for putting 11,000 morphed political ads on other social media sites.
Flagging concerns around the violation of child privacy norms, the ministry has sought explanation on why the minimum entry age has been fixed at 13 years since a person below 18 is considered a child in India.
Meity also asked TikTok and Helo about excessive data collected by them, number and kind of information sought by law enforcement agencies, employees and offices they have in India, details of charges and outcome of investigation by the UK Information Commission against TikTok, and if minors are prevented from watching content with "risk warning tag", the sources said.
TikTok and Helo are owned by China-based internet firm ByteDance.
In their joint statement, TikTok and Helo said they are grateful for the immense support given by India's growing digital community.
"Our continued success in India will not be possible without the support of our local community. We take our responsibilities to this community seriously and welcome this opportunity to fully collaborate with the Government to meet and exceed our obligations," the statement said.
India is one of the strongest markets for TikTok and Helo, it said.
"In line with our commitment to India, we are investing USD 1 billion dollars in India over the next three years, with a strategic focus on developing technology infrastructure, establishing local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program which we are proud to be assisting with already," the statement added.
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