Video-sharing app’s operations ‘temporarily’ suspended for two weeks to ensure it blocks local users’ access to ‘objectionable content’
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Thursday directed all internet service providers of the country to “immediately block access” to video-sharing app TikTok after the Peshawar High Court ordered a two-week “suspension” over content that is “not acceptable for the Pakistani society.”
“In respectful compliance to the orders of the Peshawar High Court, PTA has issued directions to the service providers to immediately block access to the TikTok app,” the regulatory body said in a short statement posted on Twitter. “During the hearing of a case today, the PHC has ordered for the blocking of the app,” it added.
In its ruling the PHC imposed a two-week ban on TikTok on a petition filed by 40 Peshawar residents contending that the videos shared on it were in violation of the constitutional right to the social and moral well-being of citizen. A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid and Justice Muhammad Nasir Mehfooz ruled that the app should be banned until it could implement a filtering mechanism to ensure no “objectionable” content was available to Pakistani audiences.
If TikTok does not cooperate with the PTA and other agencies over the next two weeks, the court could order a permanent ban, the ruling added.
During proceedings, the bench claimed that the videos uploaded on TikTok were unacceptable to Pakistani society and the app promoted immorality and vulgarity. It claimed that the app, used primarily by the youth, was “ruining the morals” of the younger generation.
Chinese company ByteDance, which owns TikTok, issued a statement maintaining that it had always strived to provide a safe and positive in-app environment. “We use a combination of technologies and moderation strategies to detect and review content that violates our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines and we implement penalties including removing videos and banning accounts when there are violations,” it said.
“Our H2 2020 Transparency Report shows that we aggressively and proactively take down inappropriate content in Pakistan. This highlights our commitment to complying with local laws,” it said, adding, it had enhanced moderation capabilities in Pakistan, with its local-language moderation team growing around 250 percent since September 2020. “At the same time, TikTok is built upon the foundation of creative expression,” it said.
The company emphasized that it was working closely with the PTA to further strengthen safeguards for users. “But we are also committed to ensuring our users’ rights to express themselves creatively on the platform, in line with our policies,” it said, adding that its teams would cooperate with authorities and explain the app’s policies to demonstrate its dedication to user security.
Meanwhile, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry warned that the people of Pakistan would pay a “huge price” for the court ruling suspending TikTok in the country. “I understand most of the judges are unaware of the technology working models,” he said in a posting on Twitter. “I’ll request the Chief Justice of Pakistan to intervene and the Ministry of Science and Technology will work with the judiciary for technology modules for judges,” he added.