Wondering how Indians are passing their time under lockdown? TikTok TikTok TikTok…

Sucked into the screen.
Sucked into the screen.
Image: AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.
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This post has been updated.

With Indians locked up inside homes, social media usage has gone through the roof in the country.

Total session time—the time spent on an app each day—on popular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram grew significantly between Feb. 2 and March 29, data on India from market intelligence platform Kalagato show. The first case of coronavirus was reported in India on Jan. 30 while the country went into a nationwide lockdown from March 24.

Chinese short-form video-sharing app TikTok, founded in 2012, has had an exceptional run since it was only second to 16-year-old Facebook in terms of time spent.

With over 500 million users in India, TikTok’s average session time rose from 39.5 minutes to 56.9 minutes.

Live video-streaming apps have been the biggest gainers. Time spent on grew 315% while that on Bigo rose 66% between Feb. 2 and March 29. “They’re growing off a smaller base after all,” Kalagato wrote in its report as both the apps have around 20 million users each.

Open rates for these apps—the number of times users of a platform open it on a given day—also skyrocketed—Instagram and Tiktok were up the most by 59% and 53%, respectively.

“Ever since work-from-home and social distancing started, we’ve seen a steady increase in the usage of social media platforms,” Kalagato noted. “Perhaps some people are trying to sort through and share the constant barrage of new information being thrown at them, but most are looking for as many ways as possible to pass the hours usually spent in traffic or looking busy at the office.”

The share of daily active users, those who open and engage with a platform in a day, increased the most for Twitter. “Possibly due to the lack of availability and thinning nature of newspapers, people are increasingly looking online to get the latest updates,” Kalagato said.

Mature products like Facebook and Instagram didn’t show much of a change since their usage is already quite high. However, for Bytedance-owned TikTok, which has gained immense popularity in recent months, the lockdown has definitely boosted use.

TikTok, however, has a dark side. It’s a hub of fake news.

For instance, two rural families ended up in a hospital after they followed a “home remedy” for coronavirus from the platform.

An analysis of 30,000-plus clips circulated by the end of March shows a set pattern of targeted disinformation campaign aimed at Indian Muslims, suggesting coronavirus doesn’t affect the community, Delhi-based digital lab Voyager Infosec found. The government has requested TikTok and Facebook to curb this trend.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has joined TikTok in its fight against fake news.

“At TikTok, we have heightened our moderation efforts…In India, we have removed thousands of videos that have contradicted legitimate advice about COVID-19 from credible authorities, as well as content that could cause imminent harm to public health and safety,” the company told Quartz. “As always, we suspend or ban user accounts that violate our policies; when necessary, we even report miscreants to relevant authorities to ensure public safety.”