TikTok says ‘no communication’ from Pakistan on why platform remains blocked
Islamabad, Islamabad High Court calls on telecoms regulator to explain reasons for banning the app۔ Company hints at investing in Pakistan if the ban if its services are unblocked. Chinese social media application TikTok said on Saturday it “received no communication” on why its service remains blocked in Pakistan despite recent engagement with the country’s telecommunications regulator.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced on Oct. 9 that it had banned the popular app over failing to remove “immoral” content from its platform.
On Monday, the telecommunications regulator said representatives of TikTok held a virtual meeting with PTA officials at to arrive at a “mutually acceptable mechanism” for the app to be unbanned in Pakistan. The ban, however, remains in place.
“After TikTok was blocked in Pakistan, we continued to engage with the PTA to demonstrate our commitment to comply with local laws and further enhance our content moderation capacity,” TikTok spokesman said in a statement.
“Though the PTA acknowledged and appreciated these efforts, our services remain blocked in the country and we have received no communication from PTA.”
Also on Saturday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the PTA to present a senior officer at the next hearing of a petition filed against the TikTok ban. While hearing the petition against the ban on Thursday, the court issued notices to PTA, the federal government and the ministry of information technology and telecommunication over the decision to block TikTok.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked PTA to explain reasons for the move.
“In this way the entire internet will have to be shut down,” he said, reminding PTA that the court had already directed the regulator to frame rules to exercise its powers under the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016, which PTA had failed to do.
The court also appointed president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Shehzada Zulfiqar, vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, Abid Saqi, journalist Mazhar Abbas and former information minister Javed Jabbar as amici to assist the court on the issue of the banning of online platforms and its implications for freedom of expression and speech and right to access information.
In August, Pakistan blocked five dating apps, namely Tinder, Tagged, Skout, Grinder and SayHi. On July 21, PTA said it had banned the Singaporean live-streaming app Bigo over “immoral, obscene and vulgar content” and issued a last warning to Tiktok for “similar” reasons. Bigo was subsequently unbanned. The hugely popular online game PUBG also remained banned in Pakistan through July.
In September, PTA said it had approached TikTok to immediately block “objectionable content” available on its platform in Pakistan and prevent the use of its platform “for disseminating illegal content.”
“PTA has done so keeping in view the negative effects of indecent/immoral/nude content available on the platform,” PTA said in a statement. “In addition, the platform has been directed to put in place an effective content monitoring and moderation mechanism to proactively remove indecent/immoral content failing which necessary action will be taken under the law.”
In its August transparency report, TikTok has said Pakistan was one of five markets in the world with the largest volume of videos removed due to breach of community guidelines and terms of service.
In its Saturday statement, TikTok hinted that if the ban is lifted, it may invest in the local market: “If the Government of Pakistan decides to reopen access to our services in the future, we can assess our allocation of resources to this market.”