NEW DELHI: Unfazed by the ban on TikTokin India, the popular Chinese short video app’s parent ByteDance remains “very optimistic” and plans to invest USD 1 billion in the country over the next three years.
ByteDance — touted to be among the world’s most valuable startups with investors like SoftBank, General Atlantic, KKR and Sequoia on board — also offers platforms like Helo and Vigo Video in India.
Speaking to PTI, ByteDance Director (International Public Policy) Helena Lersch said the company has been strengthening its content moderation policies over the last many months.
“We are obviously disappointed by the current developments, but we are also very optimistic that we will resolve this issue. We remain committed to our Indian users. As a company, we are looking to invest USD 1 billion over the next three years in India, that is how bullish we will remain to be here,” she said.
The company would also be increasing the number of employees in India to 1,000 people by the end of this year.
TikTok, which allows users to create short videos and share them, has more than 120 million users in India and is popular among youngsters.
The Madras High Court on April 3 had directed the Centre to ban TikTok app, saying it was evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate content were made available through such mobile apps.
Following the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the Madras High Court order, tech giants Google and Apple removed TikTok from their app stores in India to prohibit further downloads of the app.
Those who have already downloaded the app would be able to continue using it on their phones.
Lersch declined to comment on court proceedings as the matter is subjudice. The hearing of the matter is scheduled for April 22 in the Supreme Court and for April 24 in the Madras High Court.
India is a critical market for social media platforms given the large population of 1.3 billion people.
With increasing availability of affordable smartphones and cheap data plans, the country is also the largest mobile data consumer market globally — an opportunity that global tech companies are vying to tap into.
“We, as a company, abide by local laws, but we also want to be culturally appropriate. We have a content moderation team in India. We increased the capacity of our content moderation team globally by 400 per cent last year because we were prepared for the growth,” she added.
According to her, the company has a a two-step approach for content moderation.
“First is a tech approach — a machine learning tool that filters content and then it goes to a content moderation team. In India, the team speaks 14 languages. I think, it is fundamentally important that the team is based in the country and speaks local languages to make culturally relevant decisions,” she said.
Around six million videos have been taken off the platform for violating its community guidelines, she added.
Besides planned USD 1 billion investment, Lersche said the company would be ramping up headcount to 1,000 people by December 2019.
“(About) 25 per cent of that will be just content moderation, which means there is full-time moderation staff based in India…We have around 250 full-time staff (right now) but we are very growing that rapidly,” she added.