France lifts TikTok ban in New Caledonia as calm returns

French authorities have lifted a ban on TikTok in New Caledonia, which they suspected of fuelling recent unrest in the French Pacific territory.

The move came after a state of emergency in New Caledonia ended on Tuesday, local time, according to a statement from the high commissioner, France's top representative on the island.

The government believes the app was being used by those opposed to French rule to communicate and organise violent protests.

There were also suspicions that foreign countries, including China and Azerbaijan, might be using TikTok to interfere in New Caledonia's affairs.

However, the legal basis for the unprecedented ban was questionable, according to several lawyers interviewed by AFP.

The ban was carried out by New Caledonia's state-run Postal and Telecommunication Service - a move made easier by the territory having only one mobile phone operator.

France's State Council, the highest judicial body for matters of government, had allowed the ban on the basis that it would be "limited and temporary". Other social networks remained accessible.

TikTok is regularly accused by Western countries of facilitating the publication of content aimed at destabilising them. The United States has handed TikTok an ultimatum to divest from its Chinese owners or face a ban in the US market, based on concerns the app could be used to influence Americans.

Under TikTok's new policy, state-affiliated media attempting to reach communities outside their home country on "current global events and affairs" will be barred from appearing on the platform's personalised "For You" feed.

Meanwhile, daily life in New Caledonia was slowly returning to normal after the lifting of the state of emergency that had been imposed for nearly two weeks to quell intense rioting that killed seven people and injured hundreds.

The unrest was sparked by plans for a constitutional reform pushed by President Emmanuel Macron's government that New Caledonia's indigenous population says would dilute their vote in future elections.

A total of 3,500 police and gendarmes have been deployed across the archipelago to keep the peace.

The High Commission said on Wednesday that large gatherings were still banned, as was the sale of arms and alcohol.

A nightly curfew between 6 pm, local time, in the entire territory would remain enforced, it said. 

Original article by ABC News

ABC News