This certainly throws a spanner in the works for TikTok.
This week, an Indian state court has ordered a ban on the app in the world's second most populous nation, amid concerns over how it facilitates the distribution of concerning content.
As reported by Reuters:
"The state court [has] asked the federal government to ban TikTok, saying it encouraged pornography and made child users vulnerable to sexual predators. Its ruling came after an individual launched a public interest litigation calling for a ban."
Social media platforms have come under increasing scrutiny in recent times in regards to their capacity for distributing potentially illegal content, but this is the first time that India has enforced a nation-wide ban on a social media app. This far, Google has removed TikTok from the Play Store, while Apple has yet to follow suit.
India has blocked social platforms in certain regions (most notably Kashmir) previously, and the Indian Government did, reportedly, commission an investigation into how it might be able to ban specific social media apps last year, but the broad scale action against TikTok is significant - not entirely without precedent, but clearly a concern for the app's broader growth goals nonetheless.
India has emerged as a key battleground for social media platforms, with almost every social platform now working to provide dedicated services to boost appeal among the nation's 1.37 billion consumers. In addition to this, India is also now the second-biggest smartphone market in the world. There are limits on connectivity in the region, and the ways in which Indian users interact with social platforms requires a dedicated approach. But for those that can get it right, tapping into India is a big, big deal.
That's why this latest action is so significant - and beyond that, it may also prompt other nations to re-assess the app and see if it's a platform they want to allow into their regions, considering the stated concerns.
There are additional concerns with TikTok too, in regards to potential requirements to share information with the Chinese Government. Operating within China comes with certain regulatory responsibilities, which are often opaque to those outside of the region.
TikTok's parent company ByteDance has already come under Government scrutiny, having been forced to apologize for “publishing a product that collided with core socialist values” last year (in relation to another app it launched in China).
Indeed, according to Foreign Policy:
"The potential for Chinese government interference in ByteDance is considerable - and like other tech firms in China, there’s little the company can do about it. At some point, the Chinese government will realize the potential impact content platforms like ByteDance could have on foreign public opinion."
The app is growing fast, having been downloaded over a billion times in 2018, with more than 80 million downloads in the US alone. ByteDance has set an aggressive target of a having a 50% foreign user base by 2020, but rulings like this, and ongoing concerns, could end up slowing the app's growth, and stopping it from becoming a more significant force in the sector.
That's not to say it'll lose momentum entirely, TikTok could still become the next big thing in social networking. But there are some early red flags here, some hurdles that will slow its momentum.
TikTok may still hold significant opportunity for marketers, but it's worth monitoring the situation, and seeing how these factors impact its development.