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A Look At The Fallout Of TikTok Ban In India

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The U.S. isn't the only country that has considered banning TikTok. Pakistan, Japan, Indonesia, Australia - all of their governments have debated it. But this past summer, India did it. And now that the ban has been in effect for six months, Amanda Aronczyk, with our Planet Money podcast, looks at the fallout.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

AMANDA ARONCZYK, BYLINE: In this TikTok video, you see Balpreet Kaur with four of her girlfriends. They're wearing T-shirts and slides. They're dancing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARONCZYK: Balpreet Kaur is 30 years old, lives in New Delhi. She's a dance teacher, so she belly dances in some of her videos. Mostly, she likes to joke around.

BALPREET KAUR: With my husband and sometimes my friends also.

ARONCZYK: Did you have a lot of followers?

KAUR: Yeah, I have 400k something.

ARONCZYK: And were you able to make money off of TikTok?

KAUR: Yeah, I made lots of money from TikTok, even (laughter). Yeah.

ARONCZYK: TikTok is owned by ByteDance, which is based in Beijing. Last June, after a deadly border dispute with China, the government of India banned TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese apps. That number has since gone up to over 200 apps. Balpreet Kaur lost income and her videos, which she hadn't backed up.

KAUR: I just did not save even in my phone. There was also my memories - my first video, which I made with my husband and I got famous. So even I don't have that video, even, in my phone.

ARONCZYK: One of the odd things about banning a social media app that's used all over the world - while Balpreet Kaur can't see her own videos, the rest of us can.

You know, I think I can see your videos.

KAUR: Really?

ARONCZYK: Yeah.

KAUR: (Laughter).

ARONCZYK: I mean, I can try. Like, I have TikTok. Do you want me to see if I can find them?

KAUR: Oh, nice. Yeah, please.

ARONCZYK: I searched for her username and there she was. Her last video shows her pregnant. We were on a video call, so I held up my phone so she could see her final video.

KAUR: Oh, my God (laughter). You know, that was, like, the eighth month.

ARONCZYK: Now, that pregnant lump is a 6-month-old baby boy, the same age as the ban. Two weeks ago, Kaur gave up waiting for TikTok to come back. She signed up for a TikTok-knockoff app called MX TakaTak.

Has there been anything good about the fact that TikTok has been banned or has it all been bad?

KAUR: This is really good. This is really actually good that TikTok is banned because we are not using any - another country's app.

ARONCZYK: There are dozens of made-in-India TikTok-like apps filling the void. This appears to be the real point of India's ban. It's about economic nationalism. Anupam Chander, a law professor at Georgetown who specializes in tech law, says that India is trying to build its own Internet, one that doesn't rely so heavily on China.

ANUPAM CHANDER: The worry is that if you proceed down this route, what you do is you essentially say, you can only have apps that are run by domestic companies that are inside our country. And you've removed the global Internet entirely.

ARONCZYK: Chander says this will kneecap the flow of global information.

CHANDER: Because every country then says this about every other country. That is not a playbook we should borrow.

ARONCZYK: A month after India banned the app, the Trump administration threatened a ban on TikTok here in the United States. But that order is being challenged in court and has not been enforced.

Last note - Planet Money received money from TikTok last year as part of a #LearnOnTikTok initiative, but they have no input in our content. Amanda Aronczyk, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBOTAKI'S "MOONSIDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.