The Pakistani government has banned TikTok, claiming that it has received a number of complaints against “immoral/indecent” content on the video-sharing app, a move that comes a few months after the platform received a “final warning” on the issue.
The ban was issued by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) which said in a press release that it had given TikTok “considerable time” to develop an “effective mechanism for proactive moderation of unlawful online content,” but the platform failed to do so.
The regulator, however, left the door open to review its decision if TikTok manages to create a “satisfactory mechanism” to moderate content.
While issuing TikTok a warning in July, Pakistan had banned a Chinese-owned live-streaming app Bigo for similar reasons.
Pakistan-based digital and women’s rights lawyer Nighat Dad told Forbes that the ban is being seen as unconstitutional and a violation of people’s fundamental rights. “The lack of transparency around the PTA’s decision means that one authority can choose to ban anything by calling it immoral,” she said. “TikTok offered breathing space for people who consider themselves as minorities in the country, and the platform enabled them to enjoy the freedom that they did not find in public spaces.”
43 million. That’s the total number of times the TikTok app has been downloaded in Pakistan, according to data shared by mobile app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Prior to the ban Pakistan was TikTok’s 12th largest market.
In June, Pakistan’s neighbor India had banned the Chinese-owned video-sharing app claiming that it was stealing users’ personal data. India’s Ministry of Electronics & IT said it had taken the decision after receiving “many complaints” of TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.” The video-sharing platform has also been threatened with a ban in the U.S. by the Trump administration over a similar allegation of sharing user data with the Chinese government, something TikTok vehemently denies.
Internet platforms have regularly run afoul of Pakistan’s laws on morality and objectionable content. YouTube, which has borne the brunt of such actions so far, was banned for more than three years between September 2012 and January 2016. The video-sharing platform was only reinstated after it launched a local version that allows the government to demand the removal of material it considers offensive. In August this year, the Pakistani telecom regulator asked YouTube to “immediately block vulgar, indecent, immoral, nude and hate speech content” in the country. In September, the country had banned dating apps Tinder and Grindr calling them “immoral or indecent.”
-By Siladitya Ray, Forbes Staff
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