Media, digital sovereignty and geopolitics: the case of the TikTok ban in India

Anilesh Kumar*, Daya Thussu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


TikTok, one of the most downloaded apps in the world, has been banned in India since June 2020, following military clashes on the India-China border. This article focuses on government narratives of the TikTok ban in the Indian media and situates the issue within the broader geopolitical framework of deteriorating Sino-Indian relations and attempts for digital sovereignty. At a time of strong nationalist discourses dominating the political and social communication in India, it is perhaps unsurprising that the narratives have been seen outside India as protectionism. However, this paper argues that the digital sovereignty in the Indian context is not exclusionary but aims to create a robust digital infrastructure that is critical for economic development and self-reliance. Highlighting the lessons from India, this paper concludes the following: (i) digital sovereignty is a form of discourse which does not imply any specific policy, (ii) digital sovereignty relates to user control over their data, however, the role and limits of the State is not clearly defined and (iii) digital platforms are highly vulnerable to changing geopolitics in which their existence is not determined by user-platform interactions but by international relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1583-1599
Number of pages17
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number8
Early online date21 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • data localisation
  • digital sovereignty
  • geopolitics
  • India
  • Sino-Indian relations
  • TikTok


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