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Pakistan blocks TikTok over ‘immoral’ content

TikTok video sharing app. (Pexels/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Pakistan’s telecom regulator says it has blocked the Chinese-owned video app TikTok for failing to filter “immoral and indecent” content.

The ban comes in view of “complaints from different segments of society,” the Pakistani Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on October 9.

TikTok had been warned to filter such content, but the application failed to abide by the instructions, the PTA said.

The regulator said it would review its ban, subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content.

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TikTok said it was committed to following the law in markets where the video-sharing application 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,” the company said.

TikTok, owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, has come under increasing scrutiny as its popularity surged across the world, including among Pakistani youth, who account for around 70 percent of the conservative country’s population.

Usama Khilji, director of the Pakistani digital rights group Bolo Bhi, called the PTI’s decision “a travesty to democratic norms and fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution.”

The TikTok app “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,” he said.

TikTok’s ban in Pakistan comes months after the Singapore-based live-streaming platform Bigo Live was blocked for the same reason and video-sharing platform YouTube was warned to filter out “vulgarity and hate speech.”

These moves were seen by media freedom and human rights activists as an attempt to restrict the free flow of information online.