Pakistan blocks social media app TikTok for “immoral and indecent” content

Platform News: TikTok short-form video streaming

Pakistan’s telecom regulator halted TikTok for failing to filter out what it described as “immoral and indecent” content, another blow to the social networking app which has come under increasing scrutiny as its popularity has jumped across the planet.

The ban comes in perspective of “complaints from different segments of the society against immoral and indecent content on the video sharing application,” stated the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The PTA stated it would review its ban subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to medium unlawful content.

TikTok stated it was “committed to following the law in markets where the app is offered”.

“We have been in regular communication with the PTA and continue to work with them. We are hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us continue to serve the country’s vibrant and creative online community,” it said.

TikTok, possessed by China-based ByteDance, is becoming hugely popular in a brief time period by inviting youthful users to post short videos. But a number of countries have raised privacy and security concerns over its links to China.

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In June, it was blocked in India – its largest market by users – which cited national security concerns at one time of a border dispute with China. Separately, it faces the danger of being banned from the United States, and evaluation in other countries including Australia.

TikTok has long denied that its connections to China pose a security issue.

According to the PTA spokesman, TikTok reported 20 million monthly active users in Pakistan, although it had been the third most downloaded app after WhatsApp and Facebook over the last 12 weeks, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Three Pakistani officials had told Reuters earlier on Friday that a ban on the app was imminent. TikTok was issued with a final warning in July.

“We have been asking them repeatedly to put in place an effective mechanism for blocking immoral and indecent content,” one of the officials directly involved with the decision told journalists at our partner news agency Reuters.

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Muslim-majority Pakistan has media regulations that stick to conservative social habits.

The decision to prohibit TikTok was taken following Prime Minister Imran Khan took a keen interest in the problem, said a second official, adding that Khan has directed the telecoms authorities to make all efforts to obstruct vulgar content.

Last month, five dating apps, such as Tinder and Grindr, were blocked by the PTA.

Usama Khilji, manager of Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani team advocating for the rights of web users, stated the decision undermined the government’s fantasies of an electronic Pakistan.

“The government blocking an entertainment app that is used by millions of people, and is a source of income for thousands of content creators, especially those coming from smaller towns and villages, is a travesty to democratic norms and fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution,” said Khilji.

Global rights watchdog Amnesty International said people in Pakistan have been denied the right to express themselves in the name of a campaign against vulgarity.

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“The #TikTokBan comes against a backdrop where voices are muted on television, columns vanish from newspapers, websites are blocked and television ads banned,” Amnesty’s South Asia Regional Office stated on Twitter.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Asif Shahzad. Additional reporting by Gibran Peshimam and Aditya Kalra. Editing by Euan Rocha and Toby Chopra and Kirsten Donovan.

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