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TikTok was one of India’s most popular apps – until it was banned in 2020. It’s a lesson for what might unfold if a US ban goes ahead.

Four years ago, India was TikTok’s biggest market. The app boasted a growing base of 200 million users, thriving subcultures and sometimes life-changing opportunities for creators and influencers. TikTok seemed unstoppable – until simmering tensions on the border between India and China erupted into deadly violence.

After the border skirmish, the Indian government banned the app on 29 June 2020. Almost overnight, TikTok was gone. But the accounts and videos of Indian TikTok are still online, frozen in time when the app had just emerged as a cultural giant.

In some ways, it could offer a preview of what might lie on the horizon in the United States. On 24 April, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that could ultimately ban TikTok from the US, marking a new chapter after years of threats and failed legislation. The law requires the company that owns TikTok, Bytedance, to sell its stake in the app within the next nine months, with a further three-month grace period, or face a potential ban in the country. Bytedance says it has no intention of selling the social media platform and has vowed to challenge the legislation in court.

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