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Google to Block TikTok in India, Hurting Chinese Startup

Mark Bergen and Saritha Rai
Google to Block TikTok in India, Hurting Chinese Startup

(Bloomberg) -- Google and Apple Inc. complied with an Indian court order to block downloads of the popular app TikTok over government concerns with illicit content, according to people familiar with the decision. The move could handicap the app’s owner, China’s Bytedance Ltd., the world’s most highly valued startup, in one of its most promising markets.

An Indian state court had earlier asked the federal government to ban TikTok, citing concerns the video-sharing mobile app exposed children to troubling content, including pornography. Bytedance fought the proposal, but was overruled by India’s Supreme Court. Regulators then asked Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. to remove TikTok from their app stores.

Representatives for Google and Apple declined to comment. The court ruling restricts future downloads of the app in India, not existing users, said one of the people familiar with the decision, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

A Bytedance spokeswoman declined to comment on the app store decisions, but provided a statement on the India situation: “The case is still ongoing to date,” the company said. “We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India.”

India is one of several nations across Asia adopting more draconian oversight of internet companies, similar to the way China regulates the web.

Bytedance, which creates social and news-reading apps, has most of its users and sales in China. But TikTok has exploded in popularity elsewhere, giving Bytedance more global reach than any other Chinese tech company. Investors have valued the closely held company at $75 billion. The startup has made a considerable push in India, where a vast majority of consumers use phones running Google’s Android software.

Reuters reported earlier on TikTok’s removal from Google’s app store in India.

--With assistance from Mark Gurman and David Ramli.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net;Saritha Rai in Bangalore at srai33@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net, ;Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack

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