SHC lifts suspension of TikTok, directs PTA to decide plea against the app

Published July 2, 2021
The SHC on June 28 had directed the PTA to suspend access to the TikTok till July 8. — Reuters/File
The SHC on June 28 had directed the PTA to suspend access to the TikTok till July 8. — Reuters/File

The Sindh High Court ended the suspension of popular video-sharing application TikTok on Friday, three days after it ordered that public access to the app be blocked for “spreading immorality and obscenity” in the country.

The court issued these directives while hearing a petition filed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The PTA had contended in its plea that its version was not heard in the last court hearing, adding that the authority had already taken up the application of the complainant and measures were afoot to address the concerns raised in the complaint.

The SHC on June 28 had directed the PTA to suspend access to TikTok till July 8.

In today's hearing, the court directed the PTA to conclude hearing the complaint filed by a citizen against immoral content being shared on TikTok expeditiously.

PTA officials informed the court that the authority will decide the case by July 5, while also requesting it to withdraw its restraining order in the case. The court ordered expeditious disposal of the petition and adjourned the hearing till Monday.

Reacting to the development, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said he was glad that the SHC had revoked it earlier order for the application's suspension. He added that across the world, technology companies were engaged in propaganda against each other, urging regulatory authorities and judges not to be party to the conflict.

On June 28, a single-judge bench of SHC headed by Justice Kausar Sultana Hussain had issued notices to the ministry of information technology and telecommunication, PTA, TikTok through its directors and the deputy attorney general for the next hearing after it suspended the app.

The plaintiff Kamran Mujeeb, through his counsel, had submitted that he was actively using the app since 2019 and it was mainly popular among the younger generation across the globe.

The lawyers for the plaintiff, Maaz Waheed and Asad Ashfaq, had contended that on account of excessive and continuous spread of immorality and obscenity, the Peshawar High Court through an interim order had imposed a ban on the operations of TikTok in March.

The PHC had imposed a temporary ban on the platform's functioning in the country on a petition filed by several citizens stating that the content shared on the application were in violation of Pakistan’s Constitution, guaranteeing social and moral well-being of citizens.

However, the ban was lifted by the PHC a few weeks later, with a direction to the PTA to take steps to ensure that "immoral content" was not uploaded to the platform.

TikTok also issued a statement on July 1, assuring the growth of its local-language moderation capacity, diligence to take action on content in violation of community guidelines, and cooperation with regulators.

"We have grown our local-language moderation capacity for Pakistan, and work diligently to review and take action on content in violation of our community guidelines.

"We continue to work with regulators, and look forward to serving the millions of TikTok users and creators in Pakistan who have found a home for creativity, fun and vital economic opportunities for many years to come," said the statement.

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