Pakistan has banned TikTok yet again, citing objectionable content on the shortform video app. This is the second time the ByteDance platform has been banned in Pakistan, following a brief 10-day shutdown in October of last year.
Last fall, TikTok was banned for hosting “immoral” and “indecent” videos, but the company was able to assure the Pakistani government that videos would be moderated “in accordance with societal norms and the laws of Pakistan,” and the app resumed operations a week and a half later.
In respectful compliance to the orders of the Peshawar High Court, PTA has issued directions to the service providers to immediately block access to the TikTok App. During the hearing of a case today, the PHC has ordered for the blocking of App.
— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) March 11, 2021
The company has tens of millions of users in Pakistan, and yet a high court in the city of Peshawar ordered the government’s telecom regulatory body, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, to ban the app in order to comply.
“In respectful compliance to the orders of the Peshawar High Court, PTA has issued directions to the service providers to immediately block access to the TikTok App,” reads the announcement. “During the hearing of a case today, the PHC has ordered for the blocking of App.”
It’s not entirely clear why TikTok’s legality in Pakistan is again in question and whether any one video or trend on the app is the culprit. Yet, Al Jazeera reports that complaints were made from Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan, who accused TikTok of hosting content “unacceptable for Pakistani society.” According to the Financial Times, Khan said the platform engaged in “peddling vulgarity” and ordered the ban take effect immediately during a hearing on Thursday.
“TikTok is built upon the foundation of creative expression, with strong safeguards in place to keep inappropriate content off the platform,” TikTok said in a statement to The Verge. “In Pakistan we have grown our local-language moderation team, and have mechanisms to report and remove content in violation of our community guidelines. We look forward to continuing to serve the millions of TikTok users and creators in Pakistan who have found a home for creativity and fun.”
TikTok has endured a number of contentious government bans and other restrictions around the world — most notably, with a countrywide ban in India since last summer and the Trump administration’s hamfisted attempt to force the company to partner with a US tech firm to assuage fears of Chinese government influence over the platform. (That deal, with cloud giant Oracle, is apparently on life support under President Joe Biden.)
The app has faced its most serious opposition in and around Southeast Asia, where governments have extended existing control over the media to the video-centric social network using laws and regulations around what constitutes obscene or immoral content.