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Government orders ban on 54 more Chinese apps: Report

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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued another ban on Chinese-origin apps, its first in 2022, the Economic Times reported Monday. Entrackr has reached out to the Ministry for comment and further details. According to an unverified screenshot being reported by some publications, Garena Free Fire, a massively popular first-person shooter game, is among the apps banned. The game listing is indeed gone from app marketplaces.

This order reportedly targets apps run by the Chinese tech giants Tencent, Alibaba and NetEase, and apparently includes “rebranded” versions of apps that have already been banned in past orders. Unlike some previous rounds of bans, the government has not as of yet put out a press release with a list of the targeted apps.

ANI reported that the apps targeted in this round include Beauty Camera (which may be substituting “HD Camera Selfie Beauty Camera,” banned in September 2020), a business card reader app called CamCard (a similarly named app was also banned that month), and a ‘Lite’ variant of a game called Isoland 2, which was also a part of the September 2020 order. Also in the list are utility apps like AppLock, Dual Space Lite and Viva Video Editor.

Starting with TikTok in June 2020, the government had blocked over 200 apps as an apparent result of skirmishes between India and China along border areas that started around that time. 

Popular Chinese-owned apps like Shareit and AppLock were banned too, requiring Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store to take down these listings. (As we reported, though, some apps found a way around the ban anyway.)

Some Chinese apps have previously been accused of circumventing government bans in the past. The Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research, a think tank with ties to the government, said that Kwai, a Chinese short video app that was banned alongside TikTok, had been relaunched as Snack Video. This app was banned in a subsequent order.

Curiously, a government official was quoted as saying that some apps had relaunched after “[changing] hands”. This is precisely what happened with the wildly popular game PUBG Mobile, whose publishing in India was reclaimed by the Korean developer Krafton, which renamed the game Battlegrounds Mobile India, and even let players retain their personal information from the banned Tencent version of the app. PUBG’s relaunched avatar continues to be available for download.

Interestingly, TikTok, the short video app which grabbed all the headlines when the ban came in, has shrugged off the setback here relatively easily, crossing a billion users globally, and now being cited as one of the bigger threats to Facebook parent Meta’s future growth. Owner Bytedance continued its scorching growth rates, growing revenues to $58 billion in 2021, a 70% jump over the $34 billion it recorded in 2020. 

Update: Added reporting on Free Fire ban.

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