500,000 ‘objectionable’ TikTok videos blocked, PHC told

Published March 23, 2021
PTA lawyer Jehanzeb Mehsud also told Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan that the telecom regulator was in contact with the TikTok owner over objectionable content. — AFP/File
PTA lawyer Jehanzeb Mehsud also told Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan that the telecom regulator was in contact with the TikTok owner over objectionable content. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has blocked access to around 500,000 objectionable videos on the popular video-sharing application TikTok in the country, a single-member Peshawar High Court bench was told on Monday.

During the hearing into a case regarding the court’s recent ban on TikTok in the country, PTA lawyer Jehanzeb Mehsud also told Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan that the telecom regulator was in contact with the TikTok owner over objectionable content.

He added that the company had appointed a focal person about content policy for Pakistan.

The bench was hearing an application of the PTA for an early hearing into the main petition, whose hearing was adjourned to Apr 6 with the court ordering the continuation of the TikTok ban until a mechanism is in place to filter its indecent and objectionable videos.

Next hearing into petition against app fixed for April 1

At the PTI’s request, the bench rescheduled the hearing into the main plea jointly field by 40 Peshawar residents to April 1.

The residents sought orders for the respondents, including PTA and Federal Investigation Agency, to ban TikTok in the country over the violation of the constitutional provisions, which don’t allow acts contrary to Islamic code of life in the country.

The bench also issued notice to the petitioners’ counsel for that date.

Advocate Jehanzeb Mehsud said the issue was of great importance for the country and the court should fix the petition for early hearing.

He said the PTA had been strictly monitoring the mobile app and blocked an access to its around 500,000 objectionable videos in the country.

The lawyer said even the US, China and other countries didn’t have any mechanism to filter TikTok content.

The chief justice observed that the court would appreciate if TikTok was used purely for entertainment purpose and that it won’t allow indecent and un-Islamic videos in the country.

On Mar 11, the high court bench had directed the PTA to ban the Chinese-made app in the country until some mechanism was introduced to filter its material, which was immoral and indecent and violated social norms and ethics.

Following the court order, the PTA directed the internet service providers to immediately block the people’s access to TikTok. The app is currently inaccessible in the country.

‘No doubt, it is apparently mere an application just for entertainment but over a period it has become an addiction to which mostly the younger generation has fallen prey,’ the bench had ruled in its detailed order, adding that inspired by the TikTok application, some teenagers reportedly committed suicide in the country.

The bench had observed that during course of arguments some more nasty/offensive material had been produced by the petitioners, which was being uploaded boldly and daringly.

“On the preceding date of hearing, keeping in view the serious issue regarding the misuse of TikTok application by the younger generation especially the teenagers, whereby, indecent, vulgar, immoral, objectionable and lewd material in the shape of videos and pictures are being uploaded without any restriction, which is of course against Islamic morality and ethics, we had directed all the concerned quarters to put their heads together and devise a mechanism/formula to check such menacing tendency at the earliest,” it had ruled.

The bench added, “Mr Kamran Khan, the director general of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, apprises the court that the matter has time and again been taken up with the relevant headquarters at Singapore but the desired results could not be achieved. Since there is no TikTok office at domestic level and therefore, they feel handicapped to control or restrict the uploading of such like immoral and objectionable material except that the application is banned or for that matter closed.”

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2021

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