Pakistan has blocked TikTok from operating in the country nearly three months after issuing a final warning to the platform over its apparent failure to remove "immoral and indecent content" from its app.
Pakistan's telecommunications regulator released a statement Friday (October 9) confirming it had "issued instructions for blocking of the application" after TikTok did not meet its demands, it claims.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued a final notice to TikTok in July after receiving complaints about "immoral, obscene and vulgar content" present on the app. At the time, it requested TikTok put in place a "comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality through its social-media application", it said in a statement on July 20. Singapore-headquartered Bigo was immediately banned over the same concerns.
But according to the PTA, TikTok "failed to fully comply with the instructions, therefore, directions were issued for blocking of TikTok application in the country", the regulator said Friday.
"Keeping in view the complaints and nature of the content being consistently posted on TikTok, PTA issued a final notice to the application and gave considerable time to respond and comply with the Authority instructions for development of effective mechanism for proactive moderation of unlawful online content," the PTA said.
The regulator is "open for engagement and will review its decision subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content", it added.
A TikTok spokesperson told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the company is "hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us serve the country’s vibrant and creative online community".
"We believe feeling safe helps people feel comfortable expressing themselves openly and allows creativity to flourish. We have robust protections in place to support a safe and welcoming platform for our community, including moderation, clear Community Guidelines, and easy mechanisms to report content for review," the TikTok spokesperson said.
The company said in July that it had removed 3,728,162 violating user videos from Pakistan between July 1 to December 31, 2019. The spokesperson said that of the total videos removed, 89.4% were taken down before these videos received any views, and that the app's moderation system proactively caught and removed 98.2% of videos before a user reported them.
The PTA has sweeping powers to block or remove content it deems necessary under the The Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), a controversial cyber-security law passed in 2016. The PTA has blocked a total of 830,000 websites since the law was enacted, according to a report by Pakistan Today.
Pakistan's ban follows that of neighbouring India, which banned TikTok in June as part of a broad crack down on Chinese-owned apps. Where the PTA has said it is taking action against social-media apps over their "extremely negative effects on the society in general and youth in particular", the Indian government stated that it banned TikTok over security risks related to India's sovereignty. The latter was given as a chief reason for the US President's action against TikTok, which is facing a ban in the country as it negotiates terms of its proposed new US-headquartered business.
Click here to subscribe to the FREE Asia PR & comms bulletin to receive dedicated news, features and comment from the region straight to your inbox. Make sure you register for the site to access more than one story per month.
To submit a news, comment, case study or analysis idea for the Asia bulletin, email Surekha.Ragavan@haymarket.asia