Nepal has taken the decision to ban the popular Chinese-owned social media app, TikTok. The move comes amidst growing concerns from government officials about the app’s alleged disruption of social structures in the South Asian nation.
This decision puts Nepal in line with several other countries, including India, that have either imposed restrictions on TikTok due to various reasons ranging from national security concerns to the negative impact on values.
The decision to ban TikTok was announced by Rekha Sharma, Nepal’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, during a press conference on Monday.
Sharma stated, “Considering how TikTok is disrupting our social harmony, and the impact it’s having on our family and social structures, the cabinet has decided to ban TikTok for the moment.”
The ban is set to take effect immediately, and internet service providers in the country have been instructed to cut access to the app.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal defended the decision, addressing that it was reached through a consensus among political parties to control the tendency of spreading disharmony, disorder, and chaos in society.
The ban follows a similar move by India, where TikTok, along with several other Chinese apps, was blocked over concerns about its impact integrity.
Purushottam Khanal, the chair of the Telecommunications Authority, urged internet service providers to comply with the ban.
WorldLink Communications, the largest internet service provider in Nepal, has already told to the order, with others expected to follow suit in the coming days.
According to reports, over 1,600 TikTok-related cybercrime cases have been registered in Nepal over the past four years, contributing to a rising demand for control over the app.
In the United States, the government and its Five Eyes intelligence alliance partners have imposed restrictions on the use of TikTok on government-issued devices.
Concerns have been about data security and for the Chinese government to access user data. The White House, in February, directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from all government-issued devices, same actions taken by Australia in April.
Gagan Thapa, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress, part of the ruling coalition, questioned the government’s decision, stating that it appears to be an attempt to freedom of expression.
Thapa suggests that instead of a ban, the focus should be on regulating the platform to address concerns without compromising individual freedoms.
The decision to ban TikTok in Nepal comes because of the country introducing new rules to regulate social media platforms.
These rules include requiring social media firms to set up liaison offices in the country, a move making these platforms more accountable.
Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud explained that the ban was necessary to regulate TikTok’s use, citing its impact on social harmony, goodwill, and the flow of indecent materials.
Gagan Thapa, in his criticism, posted on social media that the government’s decision violates freedom of expression and individual freedom.
The ban has also been condemned by some members of the public on social media who argue that it will affect millions of TikTok users in Nepal, many of whom use the platform as a means of income.
Bhawana Shreshta, a professor at King’s College, London, expressed concern over the ban, calling it “concerning” and stemming from a “probabilistic generalization that TikTok users disrupt social values.”
The professor highlights the platform’s significance, especially for younger Nepalis, where individuals, including housewives and young women, have found opportunities to create content, engage in public discourse, and generate income through TikTok.
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, has been at the center of global scrutiny over concerns that user data could be accessed by the Chinese government.
The company has consistently denied such allegations, that it has never shared data with the Chinese government and would not do so if asked.
The ban in Nepal adds to the growing list of countries that have taken measures against TikTok, citing a range of concerns from data security to the impact on values.
While TikTok lags behind platforms like Facebook and Instagram in terms of overall user numbers, its growth among young people has its competitors.
A report from BBC Media Action on media usage in Nepal reveals that TikTok is the third most used platform nationally. More than 80% of social media users aged between 16 and 24 in Nepal use TikTok.
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