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Pakistan’s TikTok ban is about censorship, not China

Pakistan’s TikTok ban is about censorship, not China

Pakistan is taking a cue from its close ally China on internet censorship by banning, of all things, a Chinese social media app.



a hand holding a cellphone: BRAZIL - 2020/09/25: In this photo illustration the TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)


© Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
BRAZIL – 2020/09/25: In this photo illustration the TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Friday said it would block the short-form video app TikTok because of complaints “from different segments of the society against immoral/indecent content.” The authority said that TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has not created a satisfactory way to block offensive content following a warning to get its house in order in July.

TikTok says it has protections in place and hopes to settle the matter.

The ban is notable because, unlike countries such as India and the United States that have already gone after TikTok, Pakistan doesn’t have a tense political relationship with China. The two share close economic, diplomatic and military ties, and Pakistan is an integral part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

Experts have long been concerned about China’s ability to influence its allies to mirror its approach to the internet. China has worked for decades on its massive censorship mechanism, which shuts out content widely available elsewhere on the web.

So the decision to ban TikTok could be rooted in Pakistan’s desire to emulate its neighbor, rather than act as an attack on China, according to Usama Khilji, director of the Pakistani digital rights group Bolo Bhi.

“This could be taking a page out of the Chinese playbook. We know how heavy censorship regimes are in China,” said Khilji, who added that Pakistan has made use of the “Chinese model of media control.”

And compared with actions taken or threatened by New Delhi and

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Pakistan’s the latest country to ban China-owned app TikTok

Pakistan’s the latest country to ban China-owned app TikTok

Illustration for article titled Pakistan Is Also Doing the Ban TikTok Challenge

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Pakistan officials have announced a ban on TikTok after receiving complaints of unlawful content on the popular short-form video-sharing app. It’s the latest country to block the app after India instituted a similar ban and the U.S. attempted to do the same because of a squabble over who owns TikTok’s American business, which is currently the Beijing-based Bytedance.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement Friday that it came to the decision after TikTok failed to censor “immoral and indecent” content on its platform, the Associated Press reports. After receiving several complaints and petitions calling for the app to be banned, the authority gave TikTok a final warning in July to meet its guidelines and take down unlawful content (the Muslim-majority country has several media regulations intended to preserve conservative values), which the company purportedly failed to do.

“We have been asking them repeatedly to put in place an effective mechanism for blocking immoral and indecent content,” an official involved in the decision told Reuters.

The ban may not be permanent though; the PTA said in Friday’s statement that it’s “open for engagement” with TikTok and would review its decision should the company beef up its content moderation systems. The dating apps Tinder and Grindr also received bans last month over similar issues.

TikTok has become wildly popular all over the world since it launched outside of China in 2017, and Pakistan is no exception. The app reported 20 million monthly active users there and was the country’s third most downloaded app over the last year after WhatsApp and Facebook, a PTA spokesperson told Reuters.

But over the last year or so several countries have begun to push back against several Chinese owned

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