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