In yet another surgical strike on malicious Chinese apps, the Indian government on Wednesday banned 118 apps over national security concerns, including the immensely popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile, Baidu and a couple of virtual private networks (VPNs) that allowed access to TikTok that was earlier banned.
The action came after the fresh Chinese incursion attempts in Indian territory at Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
“This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said in a statement.
The PUBG game, which has more than 600 million downloads and 50 million active players globally, has millions of users, especially young, in India.
PUBG Mobile saw a global revenue gain of $1.3 billion (roughly Rs 9,731 crore) in the first half of this year, bringing its lifetime collection to $3 billion (nearly Rs 22,457 crore) with the highest number of downloads in India which ranks at the top with 175 million installs as people stayed home owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
PUBG was not banned in India earlier as it is not entirely Chinese. The game has been created and managed by Bluehole which is a South Korean organisation.
After PUBG became popular, Tencent — a Chinese conglomerate — joined hands with Bluehole to market the product in China and started handling a large portion of its distribution. The game is distributed in India by Tencent Holdings.
The ban on PUBG came as it announced the arrival of a new gaming era with its 1.0 version, along with global mobile esports tournament PUBG Mobile Global Championship (PMGC) with a grand prize pool of $2 million (about Rs 15 crore).
Other popular banned apps in the fresh list of banned apps are Baidu and Baidu Express Edition, ShareSave by Xiaomi, WeChat Work, Tencent Weiyun, Tencent Watchlist, Alipay, GO SMS Pro, ZAKZAK Pro and Live, Smart AppLock and Ludo World-Ludo Superstar, among others.
The ministry said that it has decided to block 118 mobile apps in view of the information available that “they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the state and public order”.
The ministry received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers that have locations outside India.
In July, the government barred 47 Chinese apps from operating in the country, which were largely clones of the previously 59 apps banned in June.
On June 29, the government banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, WeChat and UC Browser and Xiaomi’s Mi Community over national security concerns amid the border tussle in Ladakh which led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese PLA troops.
Other Chinese apps in the banned list were Club Factory, SHAREit, Likee, Mi Video Call (Xiaomi), Weibo, Baidu, BIGO LIVE and more.