Pakistan bans Chinese app TikTok over unlawful content

TikTok is the third-most downloaded app in Pakistan after WhatsApp and Facebook, with 39 million downloads

FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 file photo, the icons for the smartphone app TikTok on a smartphone screen in Beijing. A TikTok executive told a British parliamentary committee Tuesday Sept. 22, 2020 the video of a man apparently taking his own life that circulated on its platform was spread deliberately by a group of users working together. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
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Pakistan blocked the Chinese social media app TikTok, saying the company failed to fully comply with instructions to develop an effective mechanism to control unlawful content.

In a statement, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said on Friday that it took the step after receiving complaints against “immoral and indecent” content on the video-sharing platform.

The PTA said that keeping in view the complaints and nature of the content being consistently posted on TikTok, the company was issued a final notice and given considerable time to respond and comply with instructions and guidelines.

But TikTok “failed to fully comply with PTA’s instructions”, after which the authority decided to ban it in Pakistan.

Shortly after the ban, the app began to show a blank interface with no text or images loading.

Pakistan has close relations with China.

The telecommunication authority kept the door open for a return of TikTok, saying “it is open for engagement” and would review its decision if TikTok develops a mechanism to moderate the content.

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

Pakistani TikTok celebrity Hareem Shah, who has more than four million followers on the app, said the government's reasons for the ban on the popular Chinese video-sharing platform were “unfounded”.

“This talk of it being a platform for ‘indecent/immoral content’ is completely unfounded,” she said, talking to the press in the city of Karachi.

She added that such government actions could lead to further encroachment on creative liberties in the country.

“It is a very good app for entertainment. It showcases the talent of the youth of Pakistan in front of the whole world," she said of TikTok.

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

The app was earlier banned by India and the United States for violating guidelines.