Pakistan on Friday banned short video app TikTok after receiving a number of complaints against “immoral/indecent” content on the video sharing platform. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which issued the ban, had given a “final warning” to TikTok in July over allowing “obscene” and “immoral” content. This adds to the Chinese short video app’s misfortune, as it remains banned in India, and is caught in the middle of a complex deal in the US, where it’s currently fighting for survival.

PTA said (text of press release below) that it gave TikTok “considerable time” to develop an “effective mechanism for proactive moderation of unlawful online content”; however, TikTok “failed” to fully comply with the instructions. However, it did say that it was open to engage with TikTok and will review its decision if TikTok creates a “satisfactory mechanism” to moderate content.

Censorship in Pakistan: In July, as Pakistan had issued a final warning to TikTok over what it deemed unlawful content, the country had banned Chinese live-streaming app Bigo for similar reasons. “A number of complaints had been received from different segments of the society against immoral, obscene and vulgar content on social media applications particularly TikTok and Bigo, and their extremely negative effects on the society in general and youth in particular”, PTA had said at the time. Then in August, Pakistan directed YouTube to immediately block all “objectionable” content in the country, and to put in place an effective content moderation mechanism. In September, the country had banned Tinder, Grindr, and three other apps after deeming them “immoral” and “indecent”.

TikTok’s struggles: The ByteDance-owned app was banned in India in June, along with 58 other Chinese-owned apps, after the government called these apps a threat to national security and privacy. Since then, the Indian government has banned hundreds of ‘Chinese’ apps over national security concerns, including popular gaming app PUBG.

In the US, the Trump administration issued two executive orders essentially banning TikTok in the country, and directing ByteDance of its American assets. Following that, ByteDance, Oracle, and Walmart appeared to have reached a tentative deal, where the two American companies would  acquire a 20% stake in TikTok’s global business as part of a pre-IPO financing round. US President Donald Trump even approved the deal in concept and gave it his “blessing”.

However, that was until ByteDance claimed that it will control 80% of the newly formed entity — TikTok Global. Following ByteDance’s statement, Trump threatened that he will not approve the deal if TikTok Global isn’t controlled by an American company.

PTA’s press release on its order

In view of number of complaints from different segments of the society against immoral/indecent content on the video sharing application TikTok, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued instructions for blocking of the application.

Keeping in view the complaints and nature of the content being consistently posted on TikTok, PTA issued a final notice to the application and gave considerable time to respond and comply with the Authority instructions for development of effective mechanism for proactive moderation of unlawful online content.

However, the application failed to fully comply with the instructions, therefore, directions were issued for blocking of TikTok application in the country.

TIkTok has been informed that the Authority is open for engagement and will review its decision subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content

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