Pakistan slapped a second ban on the Chinese app TikTok on March 11 — five months after it had been restored following a first ban.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has ordered all internet service providers to block traffic to the platform in compliance with a ruling handed down by the Peshawar High Court in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which described TikTok content as “obscene, immoral and contrary to tradition.”
The ruling responded to a joint petition filed by 40 Peshawar residents who requested a ban on the video app for violations of constitutional provisions that restrict acts contrary to the Islamic code of life.
The PTA tweeted:
In respectful compliance to the orders of the Peshawar High Court, PTA has issued directions to the service providers to immediately block access to the TikTok App. During the hearing of a case today, the PHC has ordered for the blocking of App.
— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) March 11, 2021
This is the second time TikTok is blocked in the South Asian country. Last October, the PTA blocked it without a court order, alleging it had failed to remove unlawful content.
The ban was reversed ten days later, after TikTok's parent company ByteDance assured Pakistani authorities it would bolster content moderation.
Analysts at that time said that the main impetus behind the ban was censorship rather than hostility towards China, a close ally of Pakistan.
READ MORE: Pakistan lifts ban on TikTok with conditions
After the latest block, TikTok released a statement saying that it uses a combination of technologies and moderation strategies to detect and review content that violates its terms of service and community guidelines.
The company mentions its H2 2020 Transparency Report, which showcases examples of content taken down according to Pakistan's laws. However, the company also acknowledged that it was committed to ensuring its users’ rights to express themselves creatively on the platform, as long as if in line with company policies.
Twitter user Hummayun Chaudhry said:
Kindly block internet as well https://t.co/Fj82s13WNO
— Hummayun Chaudhry (@hummayunChoudri) March 11, 2021
Political commentator Zafar Raja said:
— Zafar Raja (@ZR786) March 11, 2021
Human rights activist Gulalai Ismail said:
Like seriously, they have banned #tiktok in Pakistan on the orders of the court. Ban karna hay tou dehshatgardi ban karo. Nojawano, VPN install karo. Psiphon bilkul free VPN hay.
— Gulalai Ismail ګلالۍاسماعیل (@Gulalai_Ismail) March 11, 2021
[…] If the state has to ban something it should be terrorism. […] Young people should install Psiphon VPN, it's free.
In October 2020, Pakistan enacted new regulations for social media platforms forbidding content that is “defamatory, obscene, blasphemous and pornographic.” Platforms that don't comply could be fined up to Rs500 million (US$ 3.22 million).