12/01/2021

Ban on TikTok is apparently a violation of constitutional law, says Islamabad High Court

The Court asks the PTA to submit names of the experts who suggested the ban of the application.

October 25, 2021 – Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to satisfy the Court with PTA’s decision to ban the social media app TikTok. Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who heard the petition against the ban on TikTok in the country which has been in effect since July 2021, remarked that the middle class is making money from this platform by exposing its talent, and blocking it is a violation of constitutional rights.

The Chief Justice said the PTA had filed the report but there was no response to the Court’s directive. The PTA took affidavits in the Peshawar and Sindh High Courts that only 1 percent of content on TikTok is objectionable. The IHC asked the PTA if any expert was consulted while blocking the platform; the Attorney General told the Court that he would consult with stakeholders. The Court directed PTA to satisfy the Court on the point why PTA banned TikTok and why the Court should not order its unblocking in the country, in the next hearing. The next hearing of the case is set for November 22 when it has directed the Federal Government and PTA to submit the names of social media experts.

The Islamabad High Court, while hearing various petitions against the ban on Tiktok earlier, had directed to take up the matter with the federal cabinet but the ban on the application was still maintained. The High Court had also raised the question of which experts the PTA decides on and is there any content in the moral realm or not? The court has also pointed out that the answer to the question was not available in the report submitted by the PTA and issued directions that the names of experts should also be submitted by November 22.

TikTok, its second quarterly report released earlier in October, mentioned that it has removed around 81 million videos from the platform on account of being in violation of its community guidelines. It removed the second highest volume of videos from Pakistan. The report mentioned that the deleted videos made up less than 1 percent of the total content uploaded on the platform. According to the transparency report, it removed 93 percent of videos within 24 hours of them being posted, 94.1 percent of the total deleted videos were taken down before any user reported them, and 87.5 percent of the total deleted videos had zero views at the time of removal.

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