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Tencent-Backed Sea’s Free Fire Game Banned In India

Tech company Sea, which is backed by China’s Tencent, has apologised to users in India after its Free Fire game was among dozens of apps hit with a ban because of data security concerns

The Free Fire game, made by Sea subsidiary Garena, was one of dozens of apps banned by New Delhi because of data security concerns. Garena image.


Tech giant Sea, which is backed by China’s Tencent, has apologised to users in India after its popular Free Fire game was reportedly among dozens of apps hit with a ban because of national security concerns.

The move is the latest volley between New Delhi and Beijing, as tensions between the two Asian giants have run high after a deadly clash on their disputed Himalayan border area in mid-2020.

Free Fire, one of the most downloaded mobile games in India, was among 54 apps banned that authorities said were of Chinese origin, according to several local media outlets.

Apps from Tencent and Baidu were also among those affected, the reports said.

New Delhi has previously banned more than 260 Chinese apps citing national security concerns, including video-sharing platform TikTok and popular game PUBG, prompting fury from Beijing.

Garena, the gaming subsidiary of Singapore-based Sea, did not confirm a ban had been imposed but said in a statement that it was “aware that Free Fire is currently unavailable in the Google Play and iOS app stores in India and that the game is currently not operable for some users in the country.”

“We are working to address this situation, and we apologise to our users for any inconvenience.”

Sea’s shares dived 18.4% in New York on Monday following reports of the ban.

Indian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

But the IT ministry told the Hindustan Times newspaper the apps collected sensitive data, which was “transmitted to servers located in [a] hostile country” and could be used “for activities detrimental to national security.”

Sea’s founders are Chinese-born and became Singaporean citizens.

Chinese tech behemoth Tencent has an 18.7% stake in the firm.

Free Fire is an action adventure game that sees players parachute onto an island, and then search for weapons and equipment to kill other participants.


• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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