Madras high court on Wednesday asked the government to ban the popular Chinese video app TikTok saying ‘it encourages pornography’.

The order also directs the media from telecasting videos made using the app. The app created by Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects.

It has become hugely popular in rural India, home to most of the country’s 1.3 billion people. The app has almost 54 million active users India.

Jokes, clips and footage related to India’s thriving movie industry dominate the platform, along with memes and videos in which youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-sync and dance to popular music.

The petition was filed by a Madurai-based senior lawyer-cum-social activist Muthu Kumar. Citing pornography, cultural degradation, child abuse, suicides, he had requested the court to direct a ban on TikTok.

The judges, Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar, have also directed the central government to respond before April 16 if it would enact regulations such as theChildren’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US to prevent children becoming online victims.

A TikTok spokesman told news agency Reuters the company was committed to abiding by local laws and was awaiting a copy of the court’s order, following which it would take appropriate action.

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“Maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment … is our priority,” he said.

The court said the “dangerous aspect” of TikTok is the “inappropriate” content. It also said “there is a possibility of the children contacting strangers directly”.

The order also observed that pranks made using the app could violate privacy.

A few months, AIADMK legislator Thamimun Ansari, on the floor of the Tamil Nadu assembly, had demanded ban on TikTok citing what he called cultural degradation. The state IT Minister Manikanandan had said he would take it up with the centre.

(Inputs from media reports)