Nepal bans TikTok amid concerns over ‘social harmony’

Raimond Klavins via Unsplash
Kathmandu, Nepal.

Citing disruptions to “social harmony,” Nepal has declared it is banning TikTok, making it the second country, after India, to declare a complete ban on the social media platform.

The decision was announced during a cabinet meeting on Monday (November 13), although it remains unclear when the ban will take effect, according to local newspaper The Kathmandu Post.

The meeting highlighted the misuse of the app in Nepal, where over 1,600 TikTok-related cybercrime cases were reported over the last four years, the newspaper said.

The government also contends that TikTok has been contributing to a surge in hate speech, prompting the need for intervention. The decision follows discussions last week between the Cyber Bureau of the Nepal Police, representatives of TikTok, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Kathmandu Post said.

“The government has decided to ban TikTok as it was necessary to regulate the use of the social media platform that was disrupting social harmony, goodwill and [enabling] flow of indecent materials,” Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Reuters reported, citing Nepal Telecom Authority Chair Purushottam Khanal, that internet service providers in Nepal have been instructed to close TikTok. 

“The government has decided to ban TikTok as it was necessary to regulate the use of the social media platform that was disrupting social harmony, goodwill and flow of indecent materials.”

Narayan Prakash Saud, Nepal Foreign Minister

“Some have already closed while others are doing it later today,” Khanal reportedly told Reuters.

This decision aligns with recent measures taken by the government, including the introduction of the ‘Directives on the Operation of Social Networking 2023.’ The new regulations mandate that social media platforms operating in Nepal establish offices within the country. 

A Cabinet meeting last Thursday (November 9) made it compulsory for platforms like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and YouTube to open liaison offices in Nepal, the newspaper added.

The government reportedly highlighted the increasing difficulty in addressing user concerns and removing objectionable content due to the absence of representatives from these companies in Nepal. 

Under the new directives, companies must establish an office or appoint a focal person in Nepal within three months, with registration of their platforms with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology becoming a prerequisite. Failure to comply may result in the shutdown of platforms not registered in Nepal.

The directives also include a 19-point list outlining activities users should avoid on platforms such as Facebook, X, TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.

Owned by China-headquartered ByteDance, TikTok has faced scrutiny in various countries over concerns that Beijing might use the app to collect user data. Several nations, including the US, Britain, and New Zealand, have banned the app on government phones, even as TikTok has repeatedly denied any data-sharing with the Chinese government.

India banned TikTok in 2020, as the government cracked down on 59 Chinese-owned mobile apps including Tencent Music Entertainment’s QQ Music.

In the US, TikTok continues to lobby the US government to keep its app operating after facing restrictions in a number of cities and states including New York City, MontanaFloridaNew Jersey, OhioTexas, and Georgia.

Amid lingering concerns regarding potential data access by the Chinese government, TikTok has rolled out a series of strategic measures including the introduction of ‘Project Texas,’ designed to segregate the data of US users onto servers operated by Oracle in Texas.

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