Live streaming app Bigo banned in Pakistan

Updated 21 Jul 2020

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PTA says complaints were received from different segments of society against immoral, obscene and vulgar content on social media applications particularly TikTok and Bigo. — Photo courtesy Bigo Live Pakistan Facebook page
PTA says complaints were received from different segments of society against immoral, obscene and vulgar content on social media applications particularly TikTok and Bigo. — Photo courtesy Bigo Live Pakistan Facebook page

KARACHI: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned live streaming application Bigo and issued a “final warning” to video-sharing service TikTok over obscene and immoral content on the platforms.

TikTok is a Chinese social networking app that allows users to make video clips, lip sync to songs and create short videos.

Last week, a civil miscellaneous application was filed in the Lahore High Court demanding an immediate ban on TikTok. The petitioner said the app was a “great mischief of modern times” and had become a source of spreading pornography for the sake of fame and ratings on social media.

According to a statement released by the PTA late on Monday night, complaints were received from different segments of society against immoral, obscene and vulgar content on social media applications particularly TikTok and Bigo.

Final warning issued to TikTok

“PTA had issued necessary notices to the aforementioned social media companies under law to moderate the socialisation and content within legal and moral limits, in accordance with the laws of the country,” the statement said.

The PTA said the response of these companies was “not satisfactory”.

“Therefore, in exercise of its powers under PECA, the PTA has decided to immediately block Bigo and issue a final warning to TikTok to put in place a comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality through its social media application,” the statement said.

Earlier this month, the PTA temporarily suspended online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

In a statement, the authority had said it had received several complaints about the game being “addictive”, a waste of time and its potential negative impact on children’s physical and psychological health. Multiple petitions have been filed against the ban.

Digital rights groups say there is no legal basis for a video game to be censored, and the PTA has not cited any legal provision for going ahead with this “ban”.

While section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 gives PTA the authority to block “unlawful online content”, even an undesirable narrow interpretation of the section does not warrant blocking a video game for the reasons cited by the PTA, said a statement issued by Bolo Bhi.

The move has also been opposed by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry who said the banning culture was “killing the tech industry”.

“Well I [am] against all kinds of general bans, such attitude is killing tech industry we cannot afford such bans,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

He expressed the hope that the IT minister Syed Aminul Haq would take notice of the ban and instruct the PTA not to encourage such restrictions as it would cause harm to the development of national technology on a long-term basis.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020