Govt blocks 138 betting, 94 loan lending apps with Chinese links | Business Standard News

Clipped from: https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/centre-initiates-process-to-block-over-230-apps-including-chinese-123020500598_1.html

The crackdown on these platforms began after the government received an alert from a nodal officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs

Mobile gaming

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has started blocking around 138 betting and 94 loan apps with China links for their alleged involvement in money laundering, and posing threat to India’s financial security, sources said on Sunday.

The crackdown on these platforms began after the government received an alert from a nodal officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The sources said MeitY issued blocking orders against these apps on an “urgent and emergency” basis. They, however, did not disclose the names of the apps that were being blocked.

“These 138 betting or gambling apps and 94 loan apps were engaging in money laundering, and were a threat to the financial security of our nation,” said a person familiar with the matter. “These apps were being operated from offshore entities, mainly Chinese.”

The government is exercising its power under Section 69 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, which allows its agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any digital information in special circumstances.

“The latest action is part of our overall crackdown on online betting activities. This, along with the online gaming rules, which would be notified shortly, would ensure no betting app operates on the internet, as part of our goal of a safe and trusted internet,” said a top government official.

The government made a similar move in June 2020, when it took down 59 Chinese mobile apps, including SHAREit, TikTok, UC Browser, and SHEIN. Over 200 platforms with Chinese links have been banned since then.

Investigative agencies have found that many mobile lending apps illegally offer instant personal loans up to Rs 10,000 for tenures ranging from seven days to a month. Several borrowers have complained about these platforms blackmailing them if they miss the date of repayment.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last year recommended a law for Banning Unregulated Lending Activities (BULA) to safeguard borrowers from predatory lending, harassment, and blackmail. In its regulatory framework dated August 10, 2022, the central bank mandated that the loan disbursal should only be carried out by entities regulated by it or those permitted under the law. It also said that digital loans must be credited directly into the accounts of borrowers and not via a third party.

Gambling apps have come under similar scrutiny after a proliferation of games like cards, casinos, and fantasy sports among young people. This has led to addiction and financial losses, with some reported cases of suicide. The IT ministry also recently released a draft policy for online games, to put curbs on the platforms offering wagering or betting on the outcome of a game.

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