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India bans another 54 apps over security concerns

As the border dispute continues between China and India, tech apps are facing the wrath of the situation. India has banned 54 apps of Chinese origin citing security concerns. The move is the latest volley between New Delhi and Beijing, with tensions between the two running high after a deadly 2020 clash in a disputed Himalayan border area.

Tech giant Sea, which is backed by China’s Tencent, has apologized to users in India after its popular Free Fire game was reportedly among dozens of apps hit with a ban on national security concerns. Free Fire is one of the most downloaded mobile games in India.

Several news reports stated that apps from Tencent and Baidu were also among those affected.

New Delhi has previously banned more than 260 Chinese apps also citing national security concerns, including video-sharing platform TikTok and popular game PUBG, prompting fury from Beijing.

Other Chinese apps that are banned in India include e-Commerce site Shein, messaging application WeChat, mobile gaming app Mobile Legends, and Chinese tweeting platform Weibo.

Video editing apps such as Viva Video Editor- Snack Video Maker with Music and Nice Video Baidu, which are used extensively for making short videos, games such as Onmyoji Chess and Conquer Online II have also been banned in India.

Garena, the gaming subsidiary of Singapore-based Sea, did not confirm a ban had been imposed but said in a statement that it was “aware that Free Fire is currently unavailable in the Google Play and iOS app stores in India and that the game is currently not operable for some users in the country”.

“We are working to address this situation, and we apologize to our users for any inconvenience,” said the statement.

Sea’s shares dived 18.4% in New York on Monday following reports of the ban. Indian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

But the IT ministry told the Hindustan Times newspaper the apps collected sensitive data, which was “transmitted to servers located in (a) hostile country” and could be used “for activities detrimental to national security”.

Sea’s founders are Chinese-born and became Singaporean citizens. Chinese tech behemoth Tencent has an 18.7% stake in the firm.

According to a Bloomberg report, Free Fire, the battle royale shooter often compared with PUBG, is among the world’s most popular mobile games with more than a billion downloads on Google Play. The title has underpinned the phenomenal growth of Singapore-based Sea, Southeast Asia’s most valuable company, and its expansion into markets from Brazil to India.


© Agence France-Presse