PTA bans TikTok over complaints against 'immoral content'

Published October 9, 2020
The picture shows an illustration of the logo of TikTok app on mobile phones. — Reuters/File
The picture shows an illustration of the logo of TikTok app on mobile phones. — Reuters/File

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued instructions to impose a ban on the highly popular video-sharing app TikTok after receiving a "number of complaints from different segments of the society", the regulatory body said in a press statement on Friday.

According to the press release, several complaints were made "against immoral/indecent content" that was shared on the app.

PTA said it had earlier issued a "final notice" to TikTok and gave the application "considerable time to respond and comply with" instructions for development of an effective mechanism for proactive moderation of "unlawful online content".

However, the company "failed to fully comply" with PTA's instructions after which the authority decided to ban it in the country.

The statement added that PTA "is open for engagement" and would review its decision if TikTok develops a mechanism to moderate the content that is posted on the video-sharing platform.

TikTok has not released a comment on PTA's announcement so far.

The move was criticised by Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, who tweeted saying "immoral content is not on TikTok, it’s embedded in our sexist society".

In a tweet, former premier Benazir Bhutto's daughter, while citing increasing reports of rape and assault cases against women and children, lamented that the society has "deteriorated so much. Look [at] what’s happening in madrassas, in open public spaces — the problem is NOT TikTok."

The video-sharing app, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, has been downloaded almost 39 million times in Pakistan and is the third-most downloaded app over the past year after WhatsApp and Facebook, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

The app has been a target of several complaints and court petitions calling for its ban in Pakistan citing “immoral” content. In July, PTA said it had issued a "final warning" to TikTok to remove “obscene and immoral content” on its platform.

Arslan Khalid, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media, had at the time backed the move, saying stringent measures were necessary as the platforms were not understanding the severity of the situation.

“The recent exploitation of female TikTokers, the objectification and sexualisation of young girls on TikTok was causing huge pain to the parents & was proving detrimental for our society,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to TikTok, however, Pakistan is among the top five markets where the largest volume of videos was removed over violations of its community guidelines

In its recent transparency report, TikTok said it deleted more than 49 million videos which broke its rules, between July and December 2019. About a quarter of those videos were deleted for containing adult nudity or sexual activity.

About one-third of the videos were from India (where the Chinese app is now banned), followed by the United States and Pakistan where it has removed over 3m videos for violating its community guidelines.

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