From being blamed for being a bad influence on the young generation in Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia, to fears that it collects information for the Chinese government, the video-based app has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons
Chinese video-based app TikTok has gained popularity and notoriety all over the world for its three to 15-second video content mostly created by youngsters.
In Bangladesh, there are several TikTok "celebrities" who have established a cult following and their online actions have given rise to public scrutiny over the wellbeing of Bangladeshi culture and society.
"Opu Bhai", a popular Bangladeshi TikTok content maker, was arrested and sent to jail on August 4 on charges of harassing and beating up people in Dhaka's Uttara.
Police said Opu and his accomplices beat up an engineer named Mehdi Hassan Robin while he was driving his car with three friends Sunday evening. The beating took place after Robin honked and asked Opu and his associates to clear a side of the road for cars to pass by as they had blocked the whole road for making TikTok videos.
The incident left Robin and two others seriously injured.
The incident has stirred social media and divided people into two groups. One group opined that arresting Opu was a necessary move due to his 'indecent' TikTok content, while the other group has voiced that this is a case of selective policing, which has taken a classist turn.
Others speculate that this was not an isolated incident. Prior to this incident, several groups of TikTok and Likee video makers had a get together at a restaurant at the capital's Gulistan area where a huge fight broke out and left several injured.
Police said this is how gang cultures start and incidents like these need to be nipped in the bud. If this is the logic, should not all the crimes, irrespective of who the criminals are, be treated the same way?
Meanwhile TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance, has faced increasing controversy over how it collects and uses data although it has repeatedly denied sharing users' information with Chinese authorities. It has also been argued that TikTok promotes immoral culture and explicit content which holds power over the younger generation.
Last year, TikTok was banned in Bangladesh as part of a clampdown on pornography.
"As a platform, Tiktok is causing mental perversion and encouraging degenerate culture among the young population of our country. We banned TikTok once due to these concerns and the platform authorities assured us that such indecent online activities will not continue. But they did not keep their word. In this case, we have to take action against TikTok," Mustafa Jabbar, Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister, told The Business Standard.
"Since TikTok is doing business in Bangladesh, we will take action against them as per the Digital Security Act guideline," he continued, adding that law enforcement agencies have been deployed to dig out TikTok's online activities in Bangladesh.
The minister informed, "Bengali culture does not mesh with TikTok's depravity. Many vested authorities issued complaints over TikTok's online culture and that is why we shut down the app last year."
"This time, it was not only guardians who came forward with the complaints, but many young people expressed their concerns as well since TikTok is having an adverse effect on their generation. Our aim is to keep the Bangali culture and way of life intact. We do not want any cultural perversion due to an app."
Syed Almas Kabir, president of BASIS, in this regard, said, "TikTok must abide by the data security regulations as it collects personal information of its users. Also, we should insist TikTok on opening an office in Bangladesh. This is how the government can ensure collection of taxes from them."
However, Md Nazmul Islam, the additional deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Cybercrime Unit, told The Business Standard that the DMP has not received any complaints regarding TikTok. "We will definitely take action if we receive complaints about the app."
"Every social media platform can insinuate criminal activities, not only TikTok. The Cybercrime Unit will respond promptly to any complaint," he added.
In India, TikTok was banned along with 58 other Chinese-owned apps due to national security and privacy concerns - a move that was widely seen as retaliation for China's incursions into its territory.
On April 16, 2019, India's government demanded Google and Apple remove the service from its app stores, though the order did not stop those who had already downloaded the app from using it.
Press Trust of India said that the case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography. India's government told the court on Wednesday that they had formed a committee to suggest ways to regulate apps like TikTok.
Pakistan's deeply conservative Islamic community also made a similar move by issuing a final warning for TikTok over its explicit content. This decision, however, was surprising as Pakistan is a close ally of China.
The same day the incident took place in Bangladesh, the US President Donald Trump ramped up his campaign against the short-form video app because of its ties to China and possible fears that it scoops up information on Americans. He stated that TikTok would be banned from the US, but the next day he gave the app a reprieve until September, allowing Microsoft, which is seeking to purchase TikTok's US operations, more time to secure a deal with ByteDance.
The US President added a new wrinkle by suggesting the US should receive a portion of the transaction price, though it is unclear whether the government has the authority to request such a payment, reported CNET.
Additional reporting by and Ariful Islam Mithu and Sumaiya Zaman.