The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on July 21 banned TikTok, marking this as the fourth time the video-sharing app has been banned in the country.
Press Release: In the light of relevant provisions of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, PTA has blocked access to TikTok App and website in the country.
— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) July 21, 2021
“The action has been taken due to continuous presence of inappropriate content on the platform and its failure to take such content down,” The PTA tweeted.
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.
The second time the app was banned was by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on March 11, 2021 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.”
The ban was later lifted on April 1, 2021 by the PHC. The court told the 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.
In June 2021, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered the PTA to suspend access to TikTok in the country for “spreading immorality and obscenity”. The court had lifted the suspension three days after issuing the order.
Deleting content on TikTok
TikTok blocked around eight million objectionable videos and around 400,000 accounts for uploading those videos in the country, the PHC was told in May 2021.
Counsel for PTA Jehanzeb Mehsud and its director technical told CJ Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed Arshad Ali that the regulator had increased the number of ‘moderators’ from 116 to 476 in the country to monitor the objectionable and indecent material uploaded on the app.
The bench observed that the court didn’t want to ban the TikTok service in the country and instead, it was only interested in the introduction of a mechanism to stop the uploading of indecent material on it.