Singapore govt queries India on Free Fire app ban

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Singapore government has raised concerns with India about its ban of popular gaming app “Free Fire”, owned by technology group Sea Ltd (SE.N), as first reported by Reuters. This is the first sign of diplomatic intervention on the recent round of app bans, four sources were quoted by Reuters.

On 14 February, the Ministry of Home Affairs has recommended a ban of 54 Chinese mobile Apps, that include the hugely popular battle royale game, Garena Free Fire. However, the popular battle royale game is Singapore-based. The founders are Chinese-born Singapore citizens. The game was one of the most downloaded games in India last year and had taken up the vacuum created by PUBG Mobile after it was banned in September 2020.

Also read: India is the core of emerging markets – PUBG developer Krafton

In 2020, in a similar move, the government had also banned TikTok and other popular short video apps from China. When TikTok was banned on June 29, 2020, the list included around 59 apps in total. Other popular apps on that list were Shareit, Shein (the fashion website and app), Xiaomi Mi Community, Clash of Kings, Weibo, Likee, etc.

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After the 14 February ban, the market value of the New York-listed Southeast Asian firm tanked by $16 billion in a single day, and investors worry India could extend it to Sea’s e-commerce app, Shopee, which recently launched in the country. The sources of Reuters, who include two Indian government officials, said Singapore had asked Indian authorities why the app had been targeted in a widening crackdown on Chinese apps, even though Sea has its headquarters in Singapore.

Also read: Government aware of possible risks and harms associated with online games

Singapore had queried if the app “was banned unintentionally,” said one of the Indian officials aware of the diplomatic initiative. The concerns, raised with India’s external affairs ministry, were routed to the information technology (IT) department which ordered the ban, the two Indian sources said. “We do not transfer to, or store any data of our Indian users in, China,” a Sea spokesperson was quoted by Reuters. India is a key market for gaming companies like Krafton and Sea. Free Fire MAX, a premium version of the app is still available on the PlayStore.