TikTok banned in Pakistan: Govt blocks video-sharing app's services

PTA says the Chinese firm was given considerable time to respond and comply with instructions but it failed

Web Desk
TikTok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. — Reuters/Files

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Friday blocked Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok after the company "failed to fully comply" with its instructions for “development of an effective mechanism for proactive moderation of unlawful online content”.

The PTA said the step was taken after the authority said it received a number of complaints from different segments of society against "immoral and indecent" content on the video-sharing application.

“Keeping in view the complaints and nature of the content being consistently posted on TikTok, PTA issued a final notice to the application and gave considerable time to respond and comply with the Authority's instructions for the development of an effective mechanism for proactive moderation of unlawful online content,” read the statement issued by PTA.

“The application failed to fully comply with the instructions, therefore, directions were issued for blocking of TikTok application in the country.”

The telecom regulator has also informed TikTok that it is open for engagement and will review its decision subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content.

Moments after the news broke, the app began to show a blank interface with no text or images loading.

Furthermore, the "For You" section was also blank with nothing but a black screen appearing for users.

Upon using the "Discover" feature, another white screen appeared for the "Users" tab. Furthermore, items in the "Top", "Videos", "Sounds" and "Hashtags" tabs also failed to load.

TikTok responds

The company responded to the ban shortly after, saying that it is "committed to following the law" wherever 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, in a statement.

TikTok underlined that its top priority is "maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment".

"We have robust measures to help ensure a safe and welcoming platform for users, including easy mechanisms to report content that violates our terms of use and comprehensive Community Guidelines, which are available in Urdu," it added.

'Final warning'

On July 20, PTA announced that it has issued a final warning to TikTok after receiving a "number of complaints ... from different segments of the society against immoral, obscene and vulgar content on social media applications particularly TikTok and Bigo".

The complaints, the regulatory body added, also included the apps' "extremely negative effects on the society in general and youth in particular".

'PM wants TikTok banned'

Recently, on September 26, a report by The News quoted information minister Shibli Faraz as saying that Prime Minister Imran Khan is of the view social media apps like TikTok are 'harming social values' and should be blocked.

While talking to the publication, Shibli Faraz said: “PM Imran is extremely concerned about the growing obscenity and vulgarity in the society and has directed all the relevant sections to stop the trend before it destroys the socio-religious values of Pakistani society”.

The information minister said that the premier had discussed this issue with him not once or twice but 15 or 16 times and wants a comprehensive strategy to curb "vulgarity" being spread in the society through mainstream outlets as well as social media and its applications.