Pakistan’s telecom regulator on Friday blocked China-based ByteDance short video app TikTok for promoting immoral and indecent content.
As the app continues to gain popularity across the globe, it has come under fire majorly for security issues. This time around however, the Pakistan telecoms authority is backlashing the app for refusing to moderate “unlawful” content.
“The ban comes in view of complaints from different segments of the society against immoral and indecent content on the video sharing application,” the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said.
In response, TikTok said it was committed to following the rules guiding each country where the app is offered and would continue to work with the authority. “We are hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us continue to serve the country’s vibrant and creative online community,” it said.
The app was blocked in India on account of national security concerns at the time of a border dispute with China.
At the time of this ban, TikTok app reported 20 million active subscribers in Pakistan as the third most downloaded app after WhatsApp and Facebook. Reuters reported that three Pakistani officials had issued a prior warning to the China-based app in July, asking the app to put measures in place that adhere to conservative social customs.
“We have been asking repeatedly to put in place an effective mechanism for blocking immoral and indecent content,” one of the officials said.
The PTA has blocked five dating apps including Tinder and Grindr in the last five months. The final decision to block the app comes as Primes Minister Imran Khan took an interest on the issue. He further issued an immediate ban following a series of vulgar content.
Meanwhile, Usama Khiliji, a Pakistani group advocate for the rights of internet users has tackled the government’s decision to ban the app. He said the ruling undermines the government’s dream of a digital Pakistan. He argued that the entertainment app is used by millions of people across the country and this decision would outrightly affect the source of income of many content creators working with the tech company.
“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,” he said.
Global rights watchdog Amnesty International said the PTA was only doing its best to shut down voices in the guise of a campaign against vulgarity. Amnesty’s South Asia Regional Office on Twitter said the government has been doing well to block websites and mute voices on television.
This is another huge blow hitting the Chinese app as many countries are scrutinising the app citing security as a major concern. US President Donald Trump banned TikTok in the US earlier this year after months of speculation about national security risks. A couple of weeks back, Oracle beat Microsoft in buying TikTok’s US asset. This partnership arrangement may spare TikTok a US ban. It’s not clear if Donald Trump will approve the deal, which is under scrutiny by a US foreign investment review panel.