Singapore Questions India’s Ban of Popular Mobile Game Owned By Sea. Is Shopee Next?

Singapore is questioning the inclusion of Free Fire, a popular mobile game owned by Southeast Asian tech group Sea, among a list of apps that were banned in India last week.

Credit: Tech in Asia

The move alarmed investors, with Sea’s market value dropping by US$16 billion in a single day. They are now worried about the possibility of the ban extending to other apps in the Wall Street-listed company’s portfolio, such as the e-commerce app, Shopee.

The Indian government said that Free Fire and 53 other apps were banned for allegedly collecting and misusing sensitive data and transmitting them to a server in a “hostile country”. India’s crackdowns have mostly focused on Chinese-linked apps up until this point, with relations between the two world powers only worsening as border disputes continue.

Free Fire, however, has no links to China as Sea is based in Singapore. "We do not transfer to, or store any data of our Indian users in, China," Sea said in response to the ban, noting that it has complied with Indian law. This is what prompted officials from the island city-state to take a diplomatic initiative and ask India about the ban.

Credit: Garena

Citing anonymous sources close to the matter, Reuters (via Channel News Asia) reports that it’s not yet known whether the Indian government plans to address Singapore’s concern and if so, how. India’s information technology (IT) department was reportedly the office that ordered the ban.

The report adds that none of the parties involved has returned a request for comment.

China’s ministry of commerce slammed the ban, urging India to treat foreign investors fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner. So far, India has banned over 200 apps over the last two years, the majority of which are owned by Chinese firms.

Free Fire players in India have reportedly since resorted to virtual private networks (VPN), among other tricks, to get around the ban.

  • The popular mobile game Free Fire was among the 54 apps banned in India's latest crackdown against Chinese-linked apps, despite it being owned by a Singapore company.

  • The market value of Sea, the company that owns the game, dropped US$16 billion after the ban.

  • Singapore officials questioned the decision, but the Indian government has yet to address the concern.