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Centre bans 138 betting apps and 94 loan lending apps with Chinese links

These 138 betting or gambling apps and 94 loan apps were engaging in money laundering, and were a threat to the financial security of our nation, according to the govt

In a new round of bans on apps with Chinese links, the central government on Tuesday imposed an ‘urgent’ and ’emergency’ ban on around 230 Chinese apps, including 138 betting apps and 94 loan lending apps. In accordance with the recommendations of the Union home ministry, the action was initiated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. However, the list of banned apps has not been released.

The apps were banned by the govt exercising its power under section 69 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. This power enables govt agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any digital information in special circumstances. “These 138 betting or gambling apps and 94 loan apps were engaging in money laundering, and were a threat to the financial security of our nation,” said a source close to the ministry. The apps are being operated from offshore entities, including Chinese ones.

The decision was taken when it was assessed that these apps are covered under Section 69 of the IT Act, because they include material that is damaging to India’s sovereignty and integrity. The measure is being orchestrated in response to numerous complaints of extortion and harassment against users of the mobile apps operated by those businesses and individuals who took out small loans. Reports claim that the developers of these apps are Chinese nationals who recruited Indians and made them operational directors. People who are in a dire financial situation are compelled to take out loans only to discover that the interest rates grow by as much as 3,000% annually.

Those who promote these applications pressurized the borrowers when they are unable to pay the interest. They threaten to send unpleasant messages to their connections, revealing their doctored images and embarrassing them in public. A number of these cases have been exposed in other states, such as Telangana and Odisha.

Attention was brought to the problem after a number of persons committed suicide, especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, after taking out such loans or losing money to betting apps. States like Telangana, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as the central intelligence agencies, then urged the Union Home Ministry to act against these apps.

When borrowers are unable to pay the interest, those who promote these applications pressurize them. They threaten to reveal their altered photos and publicly disgrace them by sending offensive messages to their connections. In several states, a number of these cases have come to light.

Following a string of suicides, mostly in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, by people who took out such loans or lost money to betting apps, awareness was brought upon the issue. The Union Home Ministry was then urged to take measures against these apps by states like Telangana, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh as well as central intelligence agencies.

Based on these details, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) examined 28 Chinese loan lending applications six months ago. They did, however, find that 94 programmes were available through internet marketplaces and that others worked via linkages from other sources.

On mobile devices, several apps are no longer accessible. Sources claim that independent links or websites are still able to be used to download betting apps and games.

According to a warning from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), since gambling and betting are prohibited in the majority of the nation’s jurisdictions, it is also unlawful to advertise these betting platforms and their substitutes in accordance with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, the Cable TV Network Regulation Act of 1995, and the IT Rules of 2021.

The ministry barred 54 Chinese apps that were a security risk to India, last year. The apps included Tencent Xriver, Onmyoji Chess, Equalizer & Bass Booster and Dual Space Lite.

The 54 apps, according to the government, reportedly obtained crucial rights and gathered private user information. According to a statement from the IT ministry, the material was being used improperly and transferred to servers in a enemy nation. These apps either have identical functionality to one another or have similar privacy and security risks.

The government had restricted 47 related apps on August 10, 2020, after banning 59 apps in June 2020. Later, 43 other apps were restricted on November 19, 2020, and 118 additional apps were blocked on September 1, 2020.

Nearly half of the top 20 free apps in India in the first half of 2020 were developed by major Chinese tech companies, including TikTok and Helo from ByteDance, the popular mobile game PUBG from Tencent Holdings, and UC Browser and VMate from Alibaba Group Holding, the company that owns the South China Morning Post. These apps aren’t on the download charts, since the ban.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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