It’s election time and Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, which runs apps like Tik-Tok and Helo in India, is feeling the heat.
A day after Madras High Court asked the state government to ban Tik Tok for its obscene content, the BJP is planning to file a complaint against Helo with the Election Commission alleging Chinese interference in Indian elections.
They cited Facebook pulling down of 11,000 advertisements of Helo as an example to the Election Commission. They alleged that the app is generating a lot of divisive negative campaigns.
If the EC cannot control these apps, they should ban the app till the elections, said a party worker from BJP’s social media cell in a report appearing in ET.
In an earlier complaint, BJP party workers had sought action against ByteDance and people behind Helo and TikTok, for violation of the Election Commission’s communication in respect of the pre-certification of political advertisements released on social media sites like Facebook. The party’s previous letter to the EC said many ads on Helo have been seemingly against the BJP.
Denying the allegations, a Helo spokesperson said out of the 11,000 ads pulled down by Facebook, about 770 were original while the remaining comprised multi-language versions of the original ads and that the total percentage of ads with political mentions are less than 0.1 per cent of the total ads served. He said the company has reiterated its commitment to the Election Commission of India to abide by the Model Code of Conduct.
ByteDance was among the internet companies that recently agreed to come up with a model code document for themselves for the upcoming national election and for the future, in an attempt to curb fake news on social media.
Helo, a vernacular social media app that launched in India a year ago, already has over 25 million users and plans to grow to 75 million in 2019. Helo is a UGC app that hosts a variety of content from politics and parenting to entertainment and farming.
Another app from ByteDance, Tik Tok also has come under the cloud for its inappropriate content with the Madras High Court directing the Central government to respond before April 16 if it would enact regulations such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US to prevent children becoming online victims.
The court has asked the Tamil Nadu government to ban the app in the state.
Disclaimer: The article has been updated after getting inputs from Helo.