Google deletes Tiktok reviews: Interference with Freedom of Expression?


Social networking sites have drastically changed the way people used to interact with each other. As soon as we came to know about the lockdown, we started looking for ways to make this experience productive, some figured out that they would read the books that were lying on their desk eating dust, some desired to cook the delicacies they loved but could not spare time for earlier, some wanted to re-ignite their imaginative self by taking to painting and sketching, others wanted to spend time with their family cherishing the memories of the past, still others wanted this time to watch their favorite Netflix series or movies they had left for long, in essence all wanted to utilize this opportunity to dwell upon the things they had a dilettantish love for. This has resulted in large number of people joining social networking sites and we all know that nothing in excessive is good for the well-being of society and the way people joining such networks would surely create many controversies.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are the biggest names in social networking world, which acts as a platform for communication, expression of sentiments and engagement. These sites compel people to maintain their social media accounts.  According to research from Rescue Time, one of the several apps for iOS and Android created to monitor phone use, people generally spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day, and this data, I am pretty sure, has gone up exponentially in this period of quarantine. The news of Youtube versus Tiktok was trending on every social networking site during lockdown which took over as a serious issue when Google deleted around 5 million negative reviews from Google Play Store which resulted in bringing back the fame of Tiktok. Such controversies bring with them legal obligations which are violated by social networking sites affecting their credibility.

The Controversy 

Around mid may the Byte Dance owned, Chinese application, Tiktok lost its glorious position in the top rated apps on Google Play Store as its rating fell from 4.4 to a low of 1.2. This was spiked by 2 reasons; controversy between Amir Siddiqui and Faisal Siddiqui’s outrageous and insightful content of the app. Both these scenarios spurred hatredness, outrageousness because of the misogynistic and violent content. The first incident refers to the dispute between popular roaster and Youtube content creator Ajey Nagar, known as CarryMinati and Tiktok content creator Amir Siddiqui. A video of Amir went viral where he targeted Carry and Youtube community and gave some statements inciting hate and following which a voice note was leaked of a conversion between Amir and other Tiktoker in which Amir can be found using Cuss words against Carry. This controversy got heated when Carry’s video titled “YOUTUBE VS. TIKTOK – THE END” was deleted from the said platform due to outrageous content.

The other reason for this was the devious and disgraceful content on Faisal Siddiqui’s Tiktok ID. The content posted by him was found to be promoting acid attacks on women. Faisal was found throwing acid on girl after she ignored him and his advances towards her. This type of content clearly promoted acid attacks on women and thereby the Tiktok ID of Faisal was flagged as inappropriate and was removed from the platform. After these two incidents took place almost simultaneously, the various citizens and the viewers of Youtube platform were agitated and they all started spamming the review section of Google Play Store and gave one star rating to Tiktok.

Legal Obligations: Post Controversy

The status of freedom of expression (freedom of speech and expression) as a fundamental right is enshrined in international and regional human rights instruments as well as national constitutions. In some cases, it may be characterized as the right to ‘freedom of expression and information’, ‘free speech’ or ‘freedom of speech’. There are differences of emphasis between these formulations, but this review will generally refer to ‘freedom of expression’ as a broad category.  

Internationally, the right to freedom of expression is recognized in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (‘UDHR’) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’). In both of these cases, the right to freedom of expression is framed as including the freedom to hold opinions without interference and the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The right to access the internet is also a crucial element of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 19 of the UDHR specifies that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right requires the ability to hold views without intervention and to search, obtain and exchange knowledge and ideas by any media and irrespective of boundaries.”

Furthermore, in the context of Indian legislations the Supreme Court has also recognized the importance of “Freedom of Expression and Speech” enshrined under the Constitution of India. In the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India the Apex court observed that “freedom to access the Internet” is a fundamental right and is protected under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. With the above highlighted legislations, we can clearly infer violation of rights by Google as it deleted more than 5 million reviews of Tiktok from Play Store. In fact, Google should respect the people who posted their reviews because it shows the awareness and involvement of people towards the betterment of society.

As per the reports, people believed that videos on Tiktok promoted the rape culture in India and therefore it should be banned. It is very much true that such videos are harming our society and also creating controversies between two social media giants. People have right to Freedom of Expression and Speech enshrined under Constitution which also allows them to access the internet freely and use it in a productive way. In the recent case of Faheema Shirin R K v. State of Kerala & Others, the High Court noted that “Where the United Nations human rights council has defined that the right to access the Internet is a fundamental liberty and a way of guaranteeing the right to education, a regulation or guidance that violates the right of students to access the Internet cannot be considered in the eyes of law.” It also went on to point that the absence of internet access will have a differing and larger influence on the underprivileged sections of the society that depend on it for their livelihoods.

Interference with Right to Expression: Justified or not?

In the recent times, Facebook’s removal of a post that contained an “offensive” part of the Declaration of Independence and its subsequent decision to permit Holocaust denial posts on its platform as well as the decision of many tech giants to de-platform a conspiracy theorist, have highlighted the enormous power of corporate actors over freedom of expression. All such events have raised a concern among the users of all this social media platforms across the world that such actions will definitely surpass the Online Freedom of Expression and Speech in the coming years. Now, we can have a clear conclusive picture that Google did violate the fundamental rights of users across the globe and supported the Chinese social media giant TikTok from getting endangered. It is clearly not justified that the views of people regarding a particular application is deleted without being informed and it violates the freedom of online expression and speech.

In contrast with that we should also keep in mind that according to review bombing policy of Google it doesn’t tolerate reviews from spam accounts especially when they are targeted towards the intentionally downgrading of a particular app. Therefore, Google deleted almost 5-6 million of one star reviews that it thought were intentionally directed towards the downgrading of Tiktok. This can be one of the finest reasons for such action of Google, but Google not only deleted one star reviews from spam accounts but also reviews from real accounts were simultaneously deleted. This is a storming issue and the officials of Google should divert their attention towards this issue because if the reviews from real accounts are deleted knowingly then Google is going to lose its credibility among its users worldwide and may face several legal implications in near future. 

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Subscribe Us


Submit Your Post!


     Web Stories

Stay Connected

-Join our Whatsapp Group-spot_imgspot_imgspot_imgspot_img

Latest Posts