PTA unblocks TikTok 10 days after banning the video-sharing app

19 Oct 2020

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TikTok was blocked on October 9 for its “obscene and immoral” content.
— Reuters/File
TikTok was blocked on October 9 for its “obscene and immoral” content. — Reuters/File

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday said that TikTok is being unlocked "after assurance from management that they will block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality".

"TikTok will moderate the account in accordance with local laws," tweeted the authority.

The video-sharing app was blocked on October 9 for its “obscene and immoral” content. PTA at the time had said it 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".

The Chinese social media giant TikTok issued a cryptic statement on Saturday which called for lifting of the ban on the app in return for a vague assurance centred on the “allocation of resources” to the Pakistani market.

“If the Government of Pakistan decides to reopen access to our services in the future, we will certainly assess our allocation of resources to this market,” the carefully worded statement said.

According to some estimates, the app has been installed 43 million times in Pakistan, with 14.7 million of those coming in the year 2020 alone. The app was banned in the country on Oct 9 with the regulator citing “obscenity” as the reason.

“Our services remain blocked in the country and we have received no communication from PTA,” the statement said.

“This is why we are disappointed that our users and creators in Pakistan are still unable to access TikTok, more than one week after our services were blocked by the PTA,” the press release said.

A senior PTA official, however, had said the TikTok management was clearly conveyed during the virtual meeting that compliance with the authority’s instructions was essential.

“The only issue is that TikTok is not providing a timeline for the results of the action it intends to take,” the official had said, adding that an application could not operate in a completely independent environment without any restriction or respect to religious and societal norms.

Following the ban, an appeal was filed in the Islamabad High Court against the ban on the video-sharing app by a private citizen, who argued his business has been badly affected by the ban. Last week on Thursday, the court sought an explanation from PTA over the ban.

The petition said TikTok app provides a platform to talented Pakistani citizens to exercise the right of expression and to demonstrate creativity.