PTA issues final warning to TikTok over 'immoral' content

Digital media adviser says 'objectification, sexualisation' of young girls on TikTok was causing pain to parents

AFP/Reuters July 21, 2020
The app has come up against backlash for spreading 'nudity and pornography'. PHOTO: AFP


Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued a final warning to Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to clamp down on what it called "immoral, obscene and vulgar" content on the video-sharing platform.

TikTok has become a global sensation with its 15 to 60-second video clips and is hugely popular among young Pakistanis, with some users building up millions of followers.

But the app has come up against backlash for spreading "nudity and pornography".

PTA announced it was blocking another app, Bigo, and had received a number of complaints about TikTok over its "extremely negative effects on the society and the youth in particular".

In a statement late Monday it said it had already issued notices to the company asking it to moderate content, before issuing a final warning ordering filters be put in place to stop "obscenity, vulgarity and immorality".

Arslan Khalid, a digital media adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan, welcomed the decision claimed the "exploitation, objectification & sexualisation of young girls on TikTok" was causing pain to parents.

Nighat Dad, a lawyer who offers digital security training to women, told AFP "obscenity" complaints are vague and often aimed at women, praising the app for allowing people to express themselves in ways they often cannot in public.

TikTok has not responded to a request for comment.

The telecommunications authority announced it was blocking the less popular Singapore-based live-streaming app Bigo Live over its content.

TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance, has faced increasing controversy over how it collects and uses data although it has repeatedly denied sharing user information with Chinese authorities.

In Pakistan, it has been downloaded almost 39 million times and is the third-most downloaded app over the past year after WhatsApp and Facebook, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Bigo Live has been downloaded over 17 million times in Pakistan and is the 19th most downloaded app in the country.

Neighbouring India banned the app, along with dozens of other Chinese mobile platforms, over national security and privacy concerns with the United States considering a similar move.

Though Pakistan is a socially conservative, mostly Muslim nation, it shares close ties with communist-ruled China. Pakistan counts China as its largest investor and most reliable ally.

The two apps are not the first to be targeted by the PTA.

In July, the PTA banned the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) platform, with over 16 million users in Pakistan, because it had received complaints “that the game is addictive, wastage of time and poses serious negative impact on physical and psychological health of the children.”

Pakistan’s recently passed social media and digital laws have been widely criticized by rights activists as being draconian because of the sweeping powers they give authorities.

The app was also banned by Bangladesh last year as part of a clampdown on pornography, while Indonesia briefly blocked access over blasphemy concerns.


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