Nepal’s foreign minister Narayan Prakash Saud announced that the app has been banned with immediate effect following a cabinet meeting.
“The government has decided to ban TikTok as it was necessary to regulate the use of the social media platform that was disrupting social harmony, goodwill, and flow of indecent materials,” Mr Saud said.
Several Western countries have raised concerns about members of parliament and government using the app, amid allegations that Beijing could use it to harvest data or advance its interests.
TikTok has repeatedly denied the allegations and said it has never shared data with the Chinese government and would not do so if asked.
The decision comes days after Nepal introduced new rules to regulate social media in the country, including the setting up of liaison offices.
Mr Saud said that the new rules have been brought to make social media platforms more accountable. The government has asked the company to register and open a liaison office in Nepal, pay taxes, and follow the rule of the land.
However, it was not clear what triggered the ban or if TikTok had refused to comply with Nepal’s requests.
Nepal Congress general secretary Gagan Thapa has questioned the government’s decision to ban the app and said instead restrictions should have been imposed.
“The government’s decision should be rectified as it violates freedom of expression and individual freedom,” Mr Thapa posted on social media platform X.
The ban was criticised by several people on social media who said the decision would impact millions of TikTok users in Nepal who were using it as a means of income.
“Nepal’s gerontocrats don’t understand the value of TikTok for younger Nepalis. A lot of people, housewives and younger women, have found public lives & generated income through content creation. That of course means nothing to these fuddy duddy politicos who refuse to retire,” doctorate student Ajapa Sharma said.
The abrupt ban on TikTok by the Nepal government is concerning. My 2023 research with 249 adolescent girls in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Kavrepalanchowk revealed that 95% rely on social media, especially TikTok, for exploration and expression. (1/2)
— Bhawana Shrestha, PhD (@bhawana_sh79) November 13, 2023
Bhawana Shreshta, a professor at the King’s College, London, said the ban was “concerning” and stemmed from “a probabilistic generalization that TikTok users disrupt social values”.
According to local media reports, more than 1,600 TikTok-linked cyber crime cases have been recorded in the country over the last four years.