WhatsApp pilots new feature to fight misinformation: Search the web

WhatsApp, one of the most popular instant messaging platforms on the planet, has rolled out a new feature in select markets that makes it easier for users to verify whether the assertions made in messages they have received on the app are true.

The Facebook -owned service has enabled users in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and US to click on a magnifying glass-shaped icon next to frequently forwarded messages — those that have been forwarded at least five times — to search the web for their contents and verify them.

WhatsApp said the new feature, called ‘search the web’, works by allowing users to upload the message — it could be text or an image — via their browser. This means that WhatsApp itself never sees the content of any message, it said in a blog post.

The feature, available across WhatsApp’s Android, iOS, and Web apps, is in pilot stage, the messaging platform said. It remains unclear how soon WhatsApp intends to roll out this feature, which it began testing several months ago, to users across the globe.

But regardless, the new feature comes at a time when WhatsApp and other messaging platforms are being used more often than ever before as people stay in touch with their friends, families, and colleagues at the height of a global pandemic.

WhatsApp, which has been forced to confront with the spread of misinformation challenge on its platform in recent years, has introduced several features and imposed restrictions to better control the flow in the past year.

In April, WhatsApp put in place additional restriction on how frequently a message could be shared on its platform. WhatsApp said that any message that has been forwarded five or more times will now face a new limit that will prevent a user from forwarding it to more than one chat (contact) at a time. Weeks later, volume of “highly forwarded” messages had already dropped by 70% globally, it claimed.

WhatsApp has also partnered with several fact-checking organizations across the globe to help people verify claims made in viral messages.

Though WhatsApp has visibly rushed to take timely actions in recent quarters, misinformation has not vanished from the app. Ill-informed explanations about several of Indian government’s recent decisions and “cures” of Covid-19 were still doing rounds on the platform a few months ago in India, its biggest market, for instance.

There’s only so much a tech firm can do to fight human stupidity.

Facebook launches commerce and connectivity-focused accelerator programs

Facebook launched two 12-week accelerator programs for startups on Monday as the social juggernaut looks for new ideas and solutions to expand its commerce and connectivity efforts.

Facebook’s Commerce Accelerator will select 60 startups from the EMEA and LATAM regions for the program, the company said. The startups that make the cut will explore building shopping solutions to drive commerce inside Facebook’s family of apps.

“Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from an entrepreneur to the largest brand to use our apps to connect with customers,” wrote Michael Huang, Head of Startup Programs at Facebook, in a blog post.

The company said a recent global survey it conducted in partnership with the OECD and World Bank found that at least a third of small to medium-sized businesses on Facebook reported 25% or more of their sales being made digitally in the past month.

“With so many sales being made online, the importance of intuitive and positive e-commerce experiences for customers has become even greater,” the company said in a statement.

The other accelerator program, called Connectivity, will feature 30 startups from the LATAM and North America (Americas) regions. These startups will be tasked with developing affordable connectivity solutions that make internet access available in more places and to at least 100,000 additional people.

Facebook said through these accelerator programs it aims to provide local development opportunities for entrepreneurs. The company holds one or two similar accelerator programs each year in some markets. In total, the company has launched accelerator programs in 11 countries to date.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has forced Facebook to conduct the accelerator programs virtually this year, has “exposed the hard truth of the digital divide and the critical need for reliable, affordable internet connectivity,” wrote Huang.

Participating startups will gain access to cost-free training, 1:1 mentorship, and access to Facebook products, its expertise and access to a global network of startup peers and successful founders. But the company is not offering monetary benefits to startups —  something it has in some of its previous accelerator programs — at accelerators announced on Monday.

Startups interested in either of the accelerator programs can submit their application.

“At Facebook, we strongly believe that by connecting, training, and growing entrepreneurs and startups through our programs, we can empower people to solve relevant, meaningful problems. We aim to build products that billions of people can use and benefit from,” Huang wrote.

Facebook has long focused on connectivity efforts, but its interest in commerce is relatively new. In May, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Shops to make it easier for companies to list their products on Facebook and Instagram.

Google to invest $450M in smart home security solutions provider ADT

Google said on Monday it will invest $450 million in ADT and work with the Florida-headquartered firm’s technicians to sell and install Google’s Nest family of smart home products.

As part of the long-term investment — which is granting Google a 6.6% stake in ADT — the two companies will first attempt to reach more individual consumers and small businesses, and then work on building and selling next-generation smart home security offerings, they said.

Both companies have also committed $150 million each — provided they reach certain milestones — for co-marketing, product development, and investment in technology and employee training.

“The partnership will combine Nest’s award-winning hardware and services, powered by Google’s machine learning technology, with ADT’s installation, service and professional monitoring network to create a more helpful smart home and integrated experience for customers across the United States,” ADT wrote in a blog post.

ADT’s shares soared 38% in the pre-market trading on the announcement.

“We’re excited to partner with ADT to further our mission of building helpful devices for the home,” said Rishi Chandra, GM and Vice President of Nest, in a statement. “ADT is a leader in smart home security, and I look forward to working with the team to create innovative smart home security solutions that help everyone feel safe and protected.”

More to follow…

Apple’s partners and Samsung apply for India’s $6.6 billion local smartphone production program

South Korean giant Samsung, Apple’s contract manufacturing partners Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron, and Indian smartphone vendors Micromax and Lava among others have applied for India’s $6.6 billion incentive program aimed at boosting the local smartphone manufacturing, New Delhi said on Saturday.

The scheme, called Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, will offer a range of incentives to companies including a 6% financial incentive on additional sales of goods produced locally over five years, with 2019-2020 set as the base year, India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a press conference.

22 companies have applied for the incentive program — that also includes manufacturing of electronics components — and have agreed to export 60% of their locally produced units outside of India, said Prasad. He said the companies estimate they will produce smartphones and components worth $153 billion during the five-year duration.

The Production-Linked Incentive Scheme is aimed at turning India into a global hub of high-quality manufacturing of smartphones and support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to make the country self-reliant, said Prasad.

As part of their applications, the companies have also agreed to offer direct and indirect employment to roughly 1.2 million Indians, the Indian minister said.

The interest of Samsung and Apple, two companies that account for more than 50% of the global smartphone sales revenue, in India is a testament of the opportunities they see in the world’s second largest internet market, said Prasad. “Apple and Samsung, India welcomes you with attractive policies. Now expand your presence in the country,” he said.

Missing from the list of companies that the Indian minister revealed today are Chinese smartphone makers Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and Realme that have not applied for the incentive program.

The Indian government did not prevent companies from any country from participating to the program, Prasad insisted in a call with reporters Saturday noon. Chinese smartphone vendors command roughly 80% of the Indian handset market, according to research firm Canalys.

“We are optimistic and looking forward to building a strong ecosystem across the value chain and integrating with the global value chains, thereby strengthening electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country,” he said. The deadline for applying to participate in India’s program, which began in April, ended on Friday this week.

The participation of Wistron, Foxconn, and Pegatron is also indicative of Apple’s future plans to produce locally in India. Apple’s contract manufacturing partner, Taiwan-based Wistron, first began assembling older iPhone models in 2017. Last month, Foxconn kickstarted assembly of a small batch of iPhone 11 units. This was the first time any Apple supplier assembled a current-generation iPhone model in the country.

Toppr raises $46 million to scale its online learning platform in India

Toppr, one of the largest online learning startups in India, has secured $46 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its platform including a new product.

Dubai-headquartered investment firm Foundation Holdings led the Mumbai-based seven-year-old startup’s Series D round. Kaizen Private Equity, an existing investor, also participated in the new round, which brings Toppr’s to-date raise to over $92 million.

Toppr operates four products and services that are aimed at K-12 students. Learning app, Toppr’s marquee service, offers students live classes and sessions to clear doubts, pre-recorded lessons and tests.

Toppr’s catalog covers 17 subjects and prepares students for five dozen competitive exams, explained Toppr founder and chief executive Zishaan Hayath in an interview with TechCrunch.

A portion of Toppr’s library is available to students at no charge on Learning app, but full access requires a membership. The subscription starts at 1,000 Indian rupee ($13.35) and goes as high as 3,000 Indian rupee ($40).

The startup launched Codr, a product aimed at helping all school-age children learn computer programming, last month. A Codr session costs about $9.35. Toppr also maintains a free problem solving app that enables a student to take a picture of a question and get its solution instantly, explained Hayath.

In background, the app uses character recognition and machine learning to sift through a large bank of problems Toppr has amassed over the years to determine its solution.

Toppr’s Learning app has amassed over 13 million users, more than 150,000 of whom are paying subscribers, he said. In recent months, the startup has also worked on a new product called School OS, which enables a school to digitize their learning experience. Through School OS, a teacher can assign and collect homework digitally, and students can attend live classes.

Zishaan Hayath, the founder and chief executive of Toppr, a Mumbai-headquartered edtech startup (Photo: Toppr)

“They can also attend classes from previous years, or of grades ahead of them. Our schooling system is built in a way that keeps you locked in the current year’s curriculum. On digital, one of the benefits is that you don’t have to follow such rules. So for instance, if a student in tenth grade needs to brush up some concept from grade nine, they can do so at any moment,” said Hayath.

More than 40 schools have deployed School OS for their 60,000 students, he said. The startup plans to have 300,000 students enrolled to School OS in the next few months.

“Toppr has emerged as the highest traffic destination for K-12 learning and hosts over 1 million sessions every day. Toppr’s community of 50,000+ educators from across the country has contributed to over 35 lakh learning pieces, including questions, solutions, concepts, games and videos for the students. Our investment in Toppr also reflects our commitment to empowering great teachers via the new School OS. The new School OS already has 55,000+ learners on it,” said Aakash Sachdev, Managing Director of Foundation Holdings, in a statement.

Sachdev has joined Toppr’s board as part of the new financing round. Foundation Holdings said it will work with Toppr to make the startup “IPO ready” in the coming years and publicly list on Nasdaq or any other international stock exchange.

Hayath said the startup will continue to focus on scaling its various products and services, and also invest a little on marketing — an aspect he said Toppr has never spent any penny on.

Another relatively new area for Toppr is exploring merger and acquisition deals. Hayath said the startup has so far resisted the idea of acquiring a team or firm to grow inorganically, but is open to scouting deals for a right fit.

Toppr’s fundraising announcement today comes as edtech startups in India witness a significant surge in their userbases at a time when firms in other industries are finding it difficult to steer through the coronavirus pandemic.

Byju’s, India’s most valuable edtech startup, raised about $23 million from Mary Meeker’s Bond last month. Unacademy, another learning platform in India, acquired a smaller firm PrepLadder for about $50 million earlier this month. And two weeks ago, Vedantu said it had secured $100 million in a fresh financing round.

India’s Flipkart gives hyperlocal delivery service another try

Flipkart on Tuesday launched a hyperlocal service in suburbs of Bangalore, four years after the e-commerce group abruptly concluded its previous foray into this category.

The e-commerce group, owned by Walmart, said Flipkart Quick leverages the company’s supply chain infrastructure and a new location mapping technology framework to deliver more than 2,000 products across grocery, perishables, smartphones, electronics accessories, and stationary items within 90 minutes to customers.

When a customer places an order, the items are sourced from local neighborhood stores, warehouses and retail chains. Flipkart Quick — initially operational in Whitefield, Panathur, HSR Layout, BTM Layout, Banashankari, RK Puram and Indiranagar among other suburbs of Bangalore — allows customers to book a convenient two-hour slot between 6am to midnight for delivery.

The company, which is working with a range of partnered firms, is levying a delivery charge starting 29 Indian rupees (39 cents) on servicing these orders, it said.

The launch of Quick stands to provide Flipkart an opportunity to reach a new set of users, especially those who otherwise see no reason to buy online, offer more timely deliveries and also become a headache for some existing startups such as Dunzo that already operate in a similar space. It also marks Flipkart’s foray into servicing fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and milk orders.

Dunzo, which is backed by Google, operates in Bangalore and allows customers to order any item from nearby stores. One of the experiments it has done in recent quarters is inking deals with smartphone vendors such as Xiaomi to deliver new handsets to customers in half an hour.

If that becomes a norm in the country, it could pose serious challenge to both Flipkart and Amazon India. Both the firms, which take at least a day to deliver handsets to customers, count smartphone sales as one of their core businesses.

“This is a great model for India as households of all sizes are already used to their neighbourhood Kirana stores. In fact, Indian families are so comfortable with what we call the ‘hyperlocal context’, that there is a tendency to develop deep, familial ties with vendors, shopkeepers and service providers – now with the convenience of e-commerce,” said Sandeep Karwa, a VP at Flipkart, in a statement.

“While we start with our dark store (no-walkin) model, wherein we enable sellers to store inventory close to the consumer; this model has the potential of encouraging local entrepreneurship and enabling new business strategies and partnerships. Today, with Flipkart Quick – our Hyperlocal capability, we have the potential to bring together the whole network of neighbourhood Kirana stores onto our platform with just a click,” he added.

This isn’t the first time Flipkart has explored the hyperlocal delivery category. In late 2015, Flipkart launched Nearby to deliver perishables, grocery, wellbeing, and household items within 60 minutes. But the company abruptly discontinued Nearby reportedly because of poor demand and unsustainable model.

Flipkart did not reference Nearby today, but talked about the efforts it has made to build Quick and the opportunities it sees in the market. Flipkart said the company plans to expand Quick hyperlocal delivery service outside of Bangalore in a few months.

For Quick, Flipkart said it is also moving away from the traditional model of using zip code system to identify delivery location and instead using a latitude and longitude approach. This model enables the company to “not only narrow down the location” but also be “more precise” and deliver more efficiently.

Both Flipkart, which this month secured an additional $1.2 billion, and Amazon India have in recent months rushed to leverage on the vast presence of mom and pop stores across the country.

Flipkart said last week it was acquiring a 100% stake in Walmart’s India business, which had limited standalone presence in the country and operated Best Price, a cash-and-carry business that runs 28 warehouse-club-style stores across the country and has amassed more than 1.5 million members. The company plans to launch its wholesale business in the country next month.

These neighborhood stores dot tens of thousands of cities, towns and villages in India. They have survived — and thrived — despite retail giants’ billions of investment in the country. The space has also attracted the attention of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani.

JioMart, a new e-commerce venture between the nation’s largest retail chain (Reliance Retail) and telecom network (Reliance Jio Platforms), began limited operations this April and has since expanded to more than 200 cities and towns across India. The new venture plans to work closely with mom and pop stores.

Facebook, which invested $5.7 billion in Reliance Jio Platforms earlier this year, said the two companies will explore ways to serve the nation’s 60 million small and medium-sized businesses.

India bans 47 apps cloning restricted Chinese services

India, which blocked 59 apps developed by Chinese firms late last month on the grounds that they pose a threat to nation’s security, today banned an additional 47 apps.

The nation’s Ministry of Electronics and IT’s new ban is aimed at those apps that were facilitating access to previously banned services such as TikTok and Cam Scanner. The new apps to be banned includes Cam Scanner Advance, and customized lite versions of Helo and ShareIt. New Delhi is expected to release the full list of apps shortly.

The ban on 59 apps that impacted TikTok, WeChat, ShareIt, and UC Browser late last month by India, the world’s second largest internet market, was seen as the latest standoff between the world’s two most populated nations.

Anti-China sentiment has been gaining mindshare in India in recent months, and it escalated when more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas last month. TikTok, Club Factory and UC Browser and other apps put together had more than 500 million monthly active users in May, according to one of the top mobile insight firms.

The move today comes as the Indian government contemplates restricting access to several more Chinese apps and services. Local media outlets including The Economic Times and India Today reported on Monday that New Delhi was reviewing an additional 275 Chinese apps including ByteDance’s Resso music streaming service — though it has not reached a decision yet.

More to follow…

Entri raises $3.1M to build a vernacular language ‘Udemy for India’

Scores of online learning startups have emerged in India in recent years to serve school-age students. More than 250 million students are enrolled across schools in urban and rural parts of the country.

Whether one is in kindergarten, or preparing to join a college to pursue an undergraduate course, there are several startups offering a plethora of courses at affordable price points to help these students get there.

Byju’s, Unacademy, and Vedantu among other local startups today help tens of millions of students each year gain access to high-profile and established teachers and a repository of study material that many might not have been able to find in an offline setting.

These startups — and legacy educational institutions — are helping students chase some of the most aspirational jobs: Career in engineering, and medicine.

Most of these students, however, will either end up not getting their dream job — or based on their skills and India’s growing unemployment figures, a job altogether.

There are about 400 million people in India, or roughly a third of the country’s population, who are confronting a fundamental challenge: Not able to speak English, and lack other skills that could prove crucial when they apply for a job.

Entri, a startup based in the Southern city of Kochi, is attempting to address this market. The three-year-old startup offers upskilling courses to help people excel at exams that would land them a job with state and federal governments. And it teaches them these courses in the language they are most comfortable with.

Students who dropped out before high-school to those who have already attained graduate-level degrees account for the vast majority of users of Entri,

The startup began its courses in Malayalam, a language spoken by about 50 million people in India and especially popular in South India, explained Mohammed Hisamuddin, co-founder and chief executive of Entri. It has since added its courses in several other languages including Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil.

Over the years, Entri has also expanded its course catalog to help people pursuing other kinds of jobs including those in blue-collar category, replicating a model similar to that of San Francisco-headquartered Udemy .

The team at Kochi-based startup Entri. (Photo provided by Entri)

“We soon realized that only about 1.5 to 2% of the people who appear in these exams are able to make the shortlist,” he said. “These exams are very competitive, so many start to explore jobs in the private sector, sometimes even when they already have some low-profile job.”

The startup now offers more than 150 courses, including several languages, accounting, and those that teach popular computer applications such as Microsoft Office. These pre-recorded video courses and quizzes run for 30 to 60 days.

“Starting with the 100 million people who apply for government jobs each year, Entri is expanding the universe of employable candidates by skilling people in their own language — as it should be,” said Arjun Malhotra, a partner at venture firm Good Capital. It’s ridiculous that economic opportunities are bottlenecked because of the medium of learning. Skills bringing employability shouldn’t require people to be proficient in English.

Hisamuddin said Entri has amassed over 3 million users on its platform, up from 1.5 million early this year. About 90,000 of these users are paying subscribers. “We are adding close to 10,000 paying subscribers each month now,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch early this week.

Entri offers about a portion of its courses in certain languages at no charge, but complete access requires a subscription. Paid subscription starts at as low as 300 Indian rupees a year ($4) and goes as high as 10,000 Indian rupees ($133), said Hisamuddin. The most popular subscription tier costs 1,500 Indian rupees ($20).

The startup said this week that it had closed a $3.1 million Pre-Series A financing round, led by Good Capital. Hari TN, head of human resources at online grocery startup BigBasket, and HyperTrack founder Kashyap Deorah also participated in the round.

It plans to deploy the fresh capital into introducing 50 additional courses to its platform and reach more users. Hisamuddin said Entri’s revenues have surged 150% in the last three months and its annual recurring revenue (ARR) has reached $2 million. He aims to scale Entri’s ARR to $5 million by this year.

Apple begins assembling iPhone 11 in India

Apple’s contract manufacturing partner Foxconn has started to assemble the current generation of iPhone units — the iPhone 11 lineup — in its plant near southern city of Chennai, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

A small batch of locally manufactured iPhone 11 units has already shipped to retail stores, but the production yield is currently limited, the person said, requesting anonymity as matters are private. Apple, in general, has ambitions to scale up its local production efforts in India, the person said.

The local production of current iPhone 11 models illustrates Apple’s further commitment to India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, as it explores ways to cut its reliance on China, which produces the vast majority of iPhone models today.

Apple’s contract manufacturing partner Taiwan-based Wistron first began assembling older iPhone models in 2017. But until now, Apple has not been able to have an assembly partner produce the current generation iPhone model in India.

Wistron, which has locally assembled older iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 models in the past in its Bangalore plant, currently assembles iPhone XR units in India. Apple discontinued the local production of iPhone SE and iPhone 6s last year, the person said.

Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, tweeted on Friday that Apple had begun assembling iPhone 11 models in India. Apple did not comment on this story.

Assembling handsets in India enables smartphone vendors — including Apple — to avoid roughly 20% import duty that the Indian government levies on imported electronics products.

Xiaomi, Vivo, Samsung, Oppo, OnePlus, and a range of other smartphone companies, have inked deals with contract manufacturers across India in recent years to produce much of their locally sold smartphones units in the country itself.

Xiaomi, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India since late 2018, said earlier this month that nearly every smartphone it sells in India is produced in the country.

Apple has been exploring ways to ramp up its production in India for years, but the company has struggled to find contract manufacturers that adhered to its safety and quality standards, people familiar with the matter have told TechCrunch.

News outlet The Information reported in March that some of Apple’s other contract manufacturers have attempted to enter — or expand in — India, but have run into regulatory and local laws issues. Pegatron, another assembly partner of Apple, plans to set up a local subsidiary in India and begin operations in the country, according to Bloomberg.

Foxconn, which counts India as one of its biggest markets, plans to invest $1 billion in its operations in the country, Reuters reported earlier this month. New Delhi announced a $6.6 billion plan to attract top smartphone manufacturers in June this year.

Apple plans to launch its online store in India in a few months and open its first brick-and-mortar retail store next year, chief executive Tim Cook announced earlier this year. The online store’s launch in India remains on track despite the pandemic, a person familiar with the matter said.

The iPhone-maker currently commands roughly 1% of the smartphone market in India, but is among firms that dominate the premium handset segment (phones priced at $4000 or above). Apple has also been the least impacted smartphone maker in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

TikTok unveils $200 million fund for U.S. creators

TikTok today announced a $200 million fund, aimed at helping top creators in the U.S. supplement their earnings, and potentially coax the next Charli D’Amelio out of the woodwork.

Called the TikTok Creator Fund, the money is aimed at helping “eligible” creators on the platform earn a livelihood, it said. Eligible for now is defined as 18 years or older, meeting a certain (unspecified) baseline for followers, and consistently posting original content that is in line with TikTok’s community guidelines. The platform will begin accepting applications from U.S.-based creators starting next month and distribute the capital over the coming year.

The promise of payouts is coming at a key moment for the app and its Chinese parent ByteDance . TikTok has been facing mounting criticism in the US, its biggest market by revenues, over how it handles user data and its ties to China, with calls from the Trump administration to ban the popular app outright.

And in response to that, TikTok has been making moves to present a more friendly face to the US. It has pledged to add 10,000 more staff in the US, and this week rumors began to circulate that investors in the US are considering buying a majority stake in the TikTok business back from ByteDance to establish control of the company out of China’s hands.

(It’s not clear if the latter is testing the waters of sentiment, or just an outright rumour, but as an aside to that, these days, ByteDance and TikTok try to go to great lengths to show they are not connected, if you go by how they handle their PR: Chinese spokespeople will not answer TikTok questions and refer journalists to the US team.)

Vanessa Pappas, GM of TikTok’s U.S. business, said in a blog post that ByteDance is starting the Creator Fund at $200 million and plans to increase it over time. She did not disclose how TikTok would decide what sum would be paid to an individual creator, and whether there would be any additional conditions to getting a payout. (We have asked about this and how many followers creators might need to have to be eligible, and will update as we learn more.)

TikTok already helps its creators sign brand partnerships and sponsorship deals, and it provides monetization for live-streams. The platform also has a $50 million Creative Learning Fund to introduce teachers to the platform, which has been used by some 1,000 teachers in the U.S. already. And a Creator Marketplace connects brands to creators to collaborate on paid campaigns.

“Through the TikTok Creator Fund, our creators will be able to realize additional earnings that reflect the time, care, and dedication they put into creatively connecting with an audience that’s inspired by their ideas,” she said.

TikTok currently employs about 1,400 people in the U.S. and recently crossed the milestone of 2 billion installs globally. Last year, it said it had 26 million users in the U.S.

Several lawmakers including Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton have expressed concerns in recent months that TikTok’s user data could end up with the Chinese government. China-headquartered ByteDance insists that it does not share any user’s data with the Chinese government, and that it stores its U.S.-based user data in the U.S. and Singapore. Earlier this week House lawmakers voted 336-71 to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices.

TikTok, which appointed Disney streaming executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive officer in May this year, also insists that it is a Cayman Islands incorporated firm.

For now, it seems that the programs that TikTok is launching are squarely aimed at fighting that fire in the US. It did not respond to a request for comment asking what it was doing to help creators in other markets supplement their earnings.

India, where TikTok has more than 200 million users and over 1 million creators, banned TikTok and 58 other apps developed by Chinese firms late last month over cybersecurity concerns. Its neighboring nation Pakistan issued a “final warning” to TikTok earlier this week over what it deemed “immoral, obscene, and vulgar content.”