Nepal has officially banned social media platform TikTok, attributing the decision to the app's content being harmful to 'social harmony'.
TikTok’s popularity has been accompanied by concerns in Nepal, with local media reporting over 1,600 TikTok-related cybercrime cases in the last four years.
Purushottam Khanal, chair of the Nepal Telecom Authority, announced that Internet service providers in the country have been instructed to shut down the app, with some already having done so, after Rekha Sharma, Nepal's minister for communications and information technology, stated that the platform was disseminating harmful content.
The ban has been met with criticism from opposition leaders in Nepal, who argue that the decision lacks "effectiveness, maturity, and responsibility."
Pradeep Gyawali, former foreign minister and a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), emphasised the need for regulation over restriction, noting that other social media platforms also host undesirable content.
Gagan Thapa, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress party, part of the coalition government, criticised the government's decision. He argued that the move infringes on freedom of expression and suggested that regulation, rather than a ban, would be a more appropriate approach.
TikTok's response to the ban was not immediately available, but the company has previously described such prohibitions as ‘misguided’ and based on ‘misconceptions’.
However, marketers see an opportunity for a domestic player to cash in on the demand. Ujaya Shakya, founder of Outreach Nepal and author of Brandsutra, has an interesting take on the significant impact of TikTok on Nepali society.
"TikTok's role in empowering women and housewives is significant. The app has provided them with a space for creative expression, where they can confidently share their talents and stories with a large audience. In a society where traditional norms might have limited their self-expression, TikTok has helped them to challenge the status quo and explore their potential," he says.
"Further, it's been a boon for small businesses, especially in the fashion and lifestyle sectors, who have used the app to drive traffic and transform into social media entrepreneurs. The app has enabled them to reach new customers, showcase their products and services, and build their brand identity.
"The potential departure of TikTok from Nepal provides an opportunity for Nepali innovators to create an indigenous platform. With a proven market demand and a benchmark set by TikTok, the time is ripe for the tech and creative communities to step forward and build a similar platform."
Nepal also recently implemented a policy requiring social media companies to establish local liaison offices.
TikTok has previously faced bans in several countries, including India, the state of Montana in the US and the UK Parliament.
(This article first appeared on CampaignAsia.com)