Unfazed by TikTok ban, Bytedance plans to invest $1b in India in 3 years: Report

The logo for Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.'s Jinri Toutiao mobile app is displayed at the company's headquarters in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

Undeterred by the ban on popular short video app TikTok in India, its Chinese parent Bytedance remains bullish and plans to invest $1 billion in the country over the next three years.

“We are obviously disappointed by the current developments, but we are also very optimistic that we will resolve this issue. We remain committed to our Indian users,” said Bytedance director (International Public Policy) Helena Lersch speaking to PTI.

On the workforce front, Bytedance plans to increase the number of employees in India to 1,000 by the end of this year.

TikTok, which boasts about 120 million users in India, has been banned in India since April 18, 2019, after allegations of pornographic and inappropriate content making rounds on it surfaced.

On April 3, the Madras High Court had directed the central government to ban TikTok app for its pornographic content, and prohibit media from broadcasting any content created on the app. The court’s interim order came in response to public interest litigation (PIL), which alleged that the app from ByteDance was encouraging paedophiles and its content was very disturbing. It has also said that children who used TikTok were vulnerable and may get exposed to sexual predators.

Following the order, tech giants Google and Apple removed TikTok from their app stores in India to prevent further downloads of the app.

A few days later, the Supreme Court refused to stay the Madras High Court’s ban on TikTok on grounds that it is temporary and the matter is still being heard at the high court. A hearing of the matter is scheduled for April 22 in the Supreme Court and for April 24 in the Madras High Court.

“We, as a company, abide by local laws, but we also want to be culturally appropriate. We have a content moderation team in India. We increased the capacity of our content moderation team globally by 400 per cent last year because we were prepared for the growth,” Lersch told PTI.

TikTok was launched in China by Bytedance under the name Douyin in September 2016 and was introduced in overseas markets a year later as TikTok. The app has consistently been among the most downloaded apps in a number of major markets, including the US.

Globally, the app surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat in monthly installs for the first time in September last year. By February this year, TikTok was downloaded more than one billion times around the world, according to Sensor Tower data.

It had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India, the app analytics firm said in February. More than 30 million users in India installed it in January 2019, 12 times more than in the same month last year.

Bytedance, which is backed by SoftBank, Sequoia and KKR, became the world’s most valuable startup in late 2018 when Softbank’s $1.5-billion infusion pushed its value past $75 billion.

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