TikTok Ban Will Continue Until Objectionable Content is Removed: PTA

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has briefed the Peshawar High Court (PHC) that the ban on TikTok will continue until the removal of objectionable content and the enforcement of an effective mechanism for monitoring and removal of objectionable content in Pakistan by the famous short-video sharing platform.

The briefing came on Wednesday during a hearing of a petition jointly lodged by the residents of Peshawar who sought a complete ban on TikTok due to the platform being in violation of Islamic Provisions of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

In a detailed report submitted to a PHC bench comprising of Chief Justice (CJ) PHC Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar, the PTA clarified that it had advised TikTok to take down unlawful content and enact a proactive mechanism for content moderation in Pakistan under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules 2020.

On the orders of the Sindh High Court (SHC) and Islamabad High Court (IHC), the telecom regulator approached TikTok first on 13 July and then on 19 July earlier this year. However, TikTok did not respond to PTA’s instructions which led to the blocking of access to the short-video sharing platform across the country on 20 July 2021.

PTA is now in continuous contact with TikTok and is constantly monitoring the measures taken by the platform in line with the directions and guidelines shared by the telecom regulator to promote safe and responsible use among its users in Pakistan who are mostly youngsters aged under 18 years.

It has sought important details from TikTok to measures to put a logical end to the repeated bans on the platform in the country. These measures may include a strategy to control objectionable content, a mechanism to prohibit juveniles from creating an account, enhancing the capability of the AI system, increasing content moderation resources, and barring repeated violators from using the platform.

PTA has also inquired TikTok about its plan regarding the appointment of a Focal Person in Pakistan for enhancing and improving communication between the two stakeholders.

Adjourning the hearing till 28 October 2021, the PHC bench directed PTA to submit the progress report on the matter at the next hearing.

A Love-Hate Relationship

PTA has banned access to TikTok in Pakistan on four different occasions so far.

The first time TikTok got blocked in Pakistan was in October 2020. The access was restored 10 days later after TikTok assured to address the concerns of PTA.

Earlier this year in March, the PHC had directed PTA to ban TikTok in the country. However, the ban was lifted a month later in April.

This year in June, the SHC had ordered PTA to restrict access to TikTok across the country. However, the SHC reversed its decision after 3 days and TikTok was restored.

Finally, in July this year, PTA blocked access to TikTok after the platform ignored repeated requests from the telecom regulator to remove objectionable content and enforce an effective mechanism for content moderation in Pakistan.

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