PHC seeks response from PTA over plea seeking TikTok ban

Petitioner prays court to direct respondents to not allow such applications in future

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TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. —Reuters
  • PHC seeks response from PTA over plea seeking ban.
  • Court says Pemra not regulatory authority, but PTA is. 
  • High court adjourns hearing till June 26 (Wednesday).

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has issued notice to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), directing it to submit a reply in a petition seeking a complete ban on video-sharing app TikTok for "blasphemous and immoral" content. 

The video-sharing platform was first banned in Pakistan in October 2020 and has been banned at least three times after that as authorities claim that the app promotes immoral content.

The petition was filed by Advocate Imran Khan requesting the court to direct the respondents to the PTA, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and Ministry of Information to ban TikTok in Pakistan permanently for persistent breach of guidelines and violation of the Constitution.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Sahibzada Asadullah heard on Thursday the request of the petitioner for interim relief seeking removal of all the objectionable material from TikTok till final disposal of the petition.

He also prayed the court to direct the respondents to not allow such applications in future which affect moral and ethical values of the people in Pakistan. 

He said that there were benefits of social media, but some social media platforms had opened the way to express anything disregarding decency, morality and the values of Islam in countries like Pakistan.

The petition said that "TikTok, being a publicly accessible application, has failed to adequately optimise its system to proscribe such criminal, hateful, unethical, and vulgar content.

Moreover, it has failed to enforce a complete ban on such content, thereby breaching its own content policy and serving as a prominent platform for such objectionable entities," it said. 

The court on Friday issued a written order of the last hearing, saying that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) is not a regulatory authority. 

"PTA is the regulatory authority which looks after such cases," said the PHC while issuing notice to the telecommunication regulator and seeking its response within seven days.

The high court had adjourned the hearing till June 26 (Wednesday).

According to TikTok's latest transparency reports, in the second half of 2023, TikTok received 303 requests from the Pakistani government, resulting in the removal of 93.5% of reported content.

The platform removed 12,392 pieces of content due to community guidelines violations and 2,126 pieces of content due to local law violations, the report said.

TikTok also removed 270 accounts due to community guidelines violations and 59 accounts due to local law violations.

Additionally, TikTok's latest Community Guidelines Enforcement Report shows that the platform proactively removes content that violates its guidelines, with a 99.5% proactive removal rate globally in Q4 2023.