Pakistan again blocks China’s TikTok over ‘indecent content’

Pakistan blocked Chinese application TikTok again on Thursday, months after it was pulled down over long standing issue of “immoral and indecent” content moderation.

The ByteDance-owned application was made unavailable for the country’s 20 million users on the direction of the Peshawar High Court that ruled the content on the app is “unacceptable for Pakistani society”.

The court’s order came after two lawyers filed the petition in the court, saying that the videos on the app are “contrary to ethical standards and moral values of Pakistan”.

Tiktok issued a statement on the ban and said the company is “aggressively and proactively” taking down inappropriate content in Pakistan and committed to comply with the local rules.

“We have enhanced moderation capabilities in Pakistan, with our local language moderation team growing close to 250 per cent since September 2020. At the same time, TikTok is built upon the foundation of creative expression,” it said.

On 9 October, 2020, Pakistan had temporarily blocked the video-sharing app for about 10 days and restored it following uproar and criticism among people over censorship.

The authorities said they lifted the ban after the company assured the government they will block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading “obscenity and immorality.”

The controversial app is facing similar issues in several other countries from reasons ranging to vulgar content, alleged privacy and data theft issues. The Donald Trump administration raised concerns over privacy fears while India blocked the app permanently for its millions of users last year amid a military standoff with China.

The app has invited criticism for over sexualisation of minors due to the ease with which content can be made and posted. However, rights groups have condemned the ban by the government, terming it as censorship and violation of freedom of expression.

According to reports, the use of internet is regulated in the country and the federal telecommunication agency is empowered to block websites and applications under a law that prohibits content against the glory of Islam or the integrity and security of Pakistan or public order, decency or morality.”