Ban on TikTok won’t be lifted until ‘unlawful’ content removed: PTA

Published September 23, 2021
The TikTok app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13. — Reuters/File
The TikTok app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13. — Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Peshawar High Court on Wednesday that it won’t lift the ban on TikTok until unlawful contents were removed from the popular video-sharing mobile app and a mechanism for ‘proactive content moderation’ was introduced in the country by its operator.

In a report submitted to a bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar, the PTA said it had issued instructions to the TikTok company under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, and the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards Rules, 2020, to take concrete steps to remove unlawful contents from the app.

It added that on the failure of the TikTok to comply with the instructions, it blocked the app in the country through an order on July 20, 2021.

The bench was hearing a petition jointly filed by 40 residents of Peshawar, who sought orders for the respondents, including PTA and Federal Investigation Agency, to ban TikTok to the extent of the violation of the constitutional provisions, which don’t allow acts contrary to Islamic code of life in the country.

PHC asks telecom regulator about progress on matter

It fixed Oct 28 for the next hearing into the petition directing the PTA to submit details of the progress on the matter.

Senior advocate Jehanzeb Mehsud appeared for the PTA along with director (technical) Mohammad Farooq and assistant director (legal) Jawad Akhtar of the authority, whereas the federal government was represented by deputy attorney general Asghar Khan Kundi.

Nazish Muzaffar and Sara Ali were the counsel for the petitioners.

The report mentioned that the PTA was in continuous correspondence with TikTok and analyzing their steps taken in the light of directions and guidelines communicated from time to time to ensure the safe and responsible use of TikTok by its users, especially youngsters, as most of them were aged between 14 and 18 years.

The authority claimed that it had asked the TikTok company to provide certain details to reach a logical conclusion, including strategy and mechanism to control unlawful content, especially indecent, which was increasing day by day.

“This may include but not limited to enhancing capability of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) system, increasing content moderation resources, barring repeated violators from using the platform.”

The PTA also sought the details of TikTok’s plan to appoint a focal person based in Pakistan for improving coordination among regulator and the social media platform and registration under Rule 9(5) of Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2020, and mechanism to prohibit juveniles from creating a TikTok account.

The PTA said in compliance with orders issued by the Sindh High Court and the present petition in the PHC, it had approached the TikTok through a letter on July 13 followed by another letter on July 19 with the direction to take action at the earliest, but no concrete steps were initiated.

The directions issued to TikTok included compliance with the directions of the court and PTA with respect to proactive identification and instant removal of unlawful contents, removal of ‘love and dating’ category from the users interests page for Pakistan, and development of a mechanism to restrict underage use of the platform.

In March, the court had banned TikTok service in the country leading to the blocking of the people’s access to the video-sharing app. The ban was lifted on April 1 with the court asking the PTA to ensure that no immoral and obscene contents are uploaded on it.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2021

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