India blocks Grafton’s game over China data sharing concerns – source

Jul 29, 2022 This image description contains Battlegrounds Mobile India game and logo. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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NEW DELHI/SEOUL, July 29 (Reuters) – The Indian government has blocked a popular battle-royal game from Grafton Inc. (259960.KS)A South Korean company backed by China’s Tencent (0700.HK)An Indian government source said it was concerned about its data sharing and mining in China.

Using powers under India’s Information Technology Act, Battlefield Mobile India (BGMI) is relying on a provision banning many Chinese apps from 2020 on national security grounds, according to a government official and another source with direct knowledge.

The Indian government has not publicly announced the ban. But the app was removed from Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) Google Play Store and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) App Store in India till Thursday evening.

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The removal of BGMI, which had more than 100 million users in India, comes after the South Asian country banned another Grafton title, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), in 2020.

The PUBG crackdown is part of New Delhi’s ban on more than 100 mobile apps of Chinese origin following a month-long border war between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The ban has expanded to cover more than 300 apps, including the popular gaming app ‘Free Fire’, owned by Singaporean technology group Sea Ltd. (SE.N).

According to Grafton’s regulatory filing, Tencent held a 13.5% stake in Grafton through an investment vehicle at the end of March.

Grafton shares fell more than 9% on Friday’s news, after closing with losses of 4.5% in Seoul. India reported a high single-digit percentage increase in its revenue in the first quarter of this year in May, the company said.

Shares of Tencent Holdings fell 4.9% to their lowest level since March 15.

A Google spokesperson said it blocked the game following a government order, while India’s IT ministry and Apple did not respond to requests for comment. The sources declined to be named because such orders are confidential.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Seoul, a Grafton spokesperson said the developer was talking to relevant authorities and companies to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the suspension of the two major app stores in India.

Krafton’s India CEO Sean Hyunil Son told news portal TechCrunch earlier this week that the Indian government had earlier stated that PUBG and BGMI are different games and that “BGMI complies with all guidelines” in India.

‘Chinese Influence’

India used Section 69A of its IT Act to impose the ban, two sources with direct knowledge told Reuters.

The section allows the government to block public access to content in the interests of national security, among other reasons. Orders issued under the section are generally confidential.

Prahar president Abhay Mishra said the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and non-profit Prahar have repeatedly asked the government to investigate the “Chinese influence” of BGMI. The SJM is the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an influential Hindu nationalist group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party.

“In the so-called new avatar, BGMI is no different from the previous PUBG, Tencent still controls it in the background,” Mishra said.

The ban elicited strong online reactions from popular gamers in India on Twitter and YouTube.

“I hope our government understands that thousands of sports athletes and content creators and their lives depend on PGMI,” tweeted Abhijeet Andare, a Twitter user with over 92,000 followers.

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Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Munsif Venkat in New Delhi, Joyce Lee in Seoul; Additional reporting by Nubur Anand; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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