Deeming them “immoral or indecent”, Pakistan on Tuesday said it has blocked access to Tinder, Grindr, and three other apps. The ban is Pakistan’s attempt to further tighten its grip on the internet in the name of morality and so-called “offensive” content.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), said it had asked the platforms to remove dating services and moderate live streaming services in compliance with Pakistan’s local laws. The regulator said it proceeded to block the apps since the platforms did not respond to its notices within the stipulated time.
Tagged, SayHi, and Skout are the other apps that have been banned. PTA said it can reconsider the ban if the companies assures the government of compliance with local laws “with respect to moderating the indecent/immoral content through meaningful engagement”.
Press Release: PTA has blocked access to five dating/live streaming applications i.e. Tinder, Tagged, Skout, Grindr and SayHi. pic.twitter.com/gFJxsgcn6m
— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) September 1, 2020
In just the past week, Pakistan warned both YouTube and TikTok to remove immoral and objectionable content. YouTube was directed to “immediately block vulgar, indecent, immoral, nude and hate speech content for viewing in Pakistan”. The government then issued similar directions to TikTok, asking it to better moderate offensive content. The warnings amount to an existential threat for the companies, as Pakistan has not hesitated to entirely ban platforms before. YouTube was infamously banned in the country for three years, until it agreed to censor content the government found offensive.
Both same-sex relationships and extra-marital affairs are punishable in Pakistan. The latter can be punished with stoning and lashing under the Hudood Ordinance. Grindr is a dating service that primarily caters to the LGBT community.
Pakistan’s controversial cybercrime law, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, allows the government to block offensive online content, and act in the interest of the “glory of Islam”, Pakistan’s national interest, decency and morality, a person’s modesty, hate speech, and incitement to commit an offense.
The PTA has unbridled powers under the act, and hence a history of censorship and making requests to foreign platforms to block and remove content. Moreover, the law allows any Pakistani to petition that offensive online content be removed, upon which the PTA can unilaterally take action without a court order. This creates space for vigilantism of online content.
In July, Pakistan banned Chinese live-streaming app Bigo for being immoral, vulgar, and obscene. It had also temporarily banned gaming app PUBG.