304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), a rebranded version of PUBG Mobile from Korean game developer and distributor Krafton, has been ordered removed from both Google and Apple app stores by the Center over concerns that the app shares data with servers in China. according to a senior government official.
The official said concerns were raised about the possibility of Indian users’ personal data being shared with foreign nations, especially China, and its ownership patterns, as the entity controlled by China’s Tencent is among Krafton’s largest shareholders. According to Krafton’s website, an entity called Image Frame Investment (HK) Limited – a wholly-owned subsidiary of China’s Tencent Holdings – has a stake of approximately 13.5 percent in the Korean company.
It may be noted that before Krafton rebranded PUBG as BGMI and relaunched it in India, PUBG Corporation – a subsidiary of Krafton – announced in September 2020 that it would not allow Tencent Games’ PUBG Mobile franchise in India and took over all publishing. responsibilities in the country. Krafton did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
It is learned that the blocking order was issued under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which empowers the government to ask intermediaries such as Google and Apple to remove any link “in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order, or for the prevention of incitement to the commission of any known crime connected with the above”.
This was the same provision used by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) in 2020 when it ordered to block BGMI’s predecessor, the hit battle royale game PUBG, along with 117 other apps believed to be of Chinese origin due to alleged engagement. in activities which were “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, the security of the State and public order”. Earlier, the same legal provision was invoked when the ministry banned the popular short video app TikTok.
The game was removed from the Apple and Google app stores late Thursday night. Afterward, a Krafton spokesperson said it was “clarifying” how BGMI was removed from app stores. A Google spokesperson said that after receiving the blocking order, it informed Krafton and blocked access to the app on the Play Store in India.
Lots of apps disabled
Apart from BGMI and its predecessor PUBG India, hundreds of apps believed to be of Chinese origin and suspected of data misuse were previously banned by MeitY.
There have been calls for the game to be banned since its relaunch in a new version, which gained considerable momentum after a 16-year-old boy allegedly shot his mother dead because she stopped him from playing “online games like PUBG”. Last week, Rajya Sabha MP V Vijayasai Reddy asked whether MeitY was taking action against apps like PUBG where “some children have also committed crimes when they were prevented from playing the game”.
To this, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar replied, “The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has received various reports and complaints that apps that have been blocked are appearing with a new avatar using similar-sounding names or renamed with the same functionality. All such reports and complaints have been forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the requesting agency, for consideration. MeitY follows due process as defined in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Public Access to Information) Rules, 2009″.
In February, an Assam-based NGO called Prahar wrote to the MHA and MeitY to block BGMI under Section 69 (A) of the IT Act, saying it posed a threat to India’s sovereignty and integrity, India’s defense and state security and public order.