10/23/2021

Sindh High Court Orders Third Ban on TikTok

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on June 28 issued an order to ban video-sharing app TikTok across Pakistan. This is the third time the app is facing a ban in the country.

The SHC’s ruling came during a hearing, when the petitioner’s lawyer said the Peshawar High Court had previously banned TikTok as some videos uploaded on the platform are “immoral and against the teachings of Islam.” The court issued a notice to Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan and directed him to follow the orders and get the app banned.

The lawyer representing the petitioner said his client had approached the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) before approaching the court, but the PTA did not take action.

The court has summoned the parties involved in this case on July 8.

Earlier today, Ali Zeb, a resident of Pakpattan, filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on Tiktok, alleging that the app was promoting crime. Zeb claims that people use drugs and weapons in their videos on the app, and its usage in educational institutions is leading to a bad environment for students.

The petitioner said also said users are making recordings of acts like suicide attempts to get views, and the content on it is against the Islamic injunctions. The petitioner demanded effective policy-making and demanded that the government set up a mechanism to censor the content.

Previous bans

The second time the app was banned was by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on March 11 for concerns over “immoral content.” The instructions were issued by PHC Chief Justice (CJ) Qaiser Rashid Khan, who was hearing a plea seeking a ban on Tiktok, and said the videos uploaded on the platform were “not acceptable for Pakistani society.” He added that the audience most impacted by TikTok was the youth.

PHC CJ said that the app was spreading obscenity and should be shut down immediately.

The ban was later lifted on April 1 by the Peshawar High Court. The court told the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to take steps to ensure that such content is not uploaded to the platform again. PTA Director General (DG) Tariq Gandapur further said that the authority had brought up the issue with the company, and that the platform had appointed a focal person for content policy who will monitor all objectionable and illegal content on the platform.

Before this, the first ban came when PTA blocked the app in the country on October 9, 2020 on the grounds that it promoted “unethical content.” This led to heavy criticism on social media and mainstream media by activists, users and human rights organizations who said the ban was a violation of citizens’ fundamental human rights. However, the ban was lifted after just 10 days by PTA, which said the app had assured the agency that videos will be moderated in accordance with local laws.

Social media rules

The most recent ban comes after revisions made to the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021, which allow the PTA to obtain or remove online content on various arbitrary grounds. The latest ban follows consultations with activists, petitioners and stakeholders, who raised concerns about how the rules provide access to PTA for the removal and blocking of social media apps.

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