TikTok services restored after app owners’ assurance
October 20 2020 12:47 AM

Internews/AFP Karachi

Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok has been restored in Pakistan after it assured the authorities to “block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality”. 
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said in a statement yesterday that the app banned on October 9 for failing to filter out “immoral and indecent” content had been unblocked. 
The telecom regulator had said the decision to ban the app was taken after the authority received a number of “complaints from different segments of the society against immoral and indecent content on the video sharing application. 
“TikTok is being unlocked after assurance from management that they will block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality,” read the PTA statement. 
“TikTok will moderate the account in accordance with local laws.” 
According to sources, the company has assured the authorities that it will take steps to control “indecent and immoral” on the app. 
The commitment was made in a meeting with PTA officials, after which the regulator unbanned the application. 
The regulator warned, however, that it would be banned permanently if it failed to moderate posts.
TikTok said it in a statement it had committed to enforcing “community guidelines and complying with local laws” but did not comment on what morality or decency standards it had agreed to.
TikTok had expressed disappointment that its users and creators in Pakistan were still unable to access the video-sharing platform despite the company’s efforts to engage with the country’s telecom regulator. 
According to a TikTok spokesperson, the video-sharing app kept engaging with the PTA to demonstrate its commitment to comply with local laws and further enhance its content moderation capacity. 
The spokesperson had said that TikTok had made “concerted efforts to address questions from the Pakistani government around their content moderation process”. 
“TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and joy, and that’s just what we’ve done in Pakistan. We’ve built a community whose creativity and passion has brought joy to households across Pakistan and opened vital economic opportunities to incredibly talented creators,” it said. 
“We continue to hope that our productive dialogue with the PTA can bring assurance of the government’s commitment to a stable, enabling environment whereby we can explore investing further in the market, including in the inspiring talent we’ve seen thrive on TikTok.” 
Arslan Khalid, a digital media adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan, previously tweeted that the “exploitation, objectification & sexualisation” of young girls on TikTok was causing pain to parents.
But freedom of speech advocates have long criticised the creeping government censorship and control of Pakistan’s Internet and printed and electronic media.
Owned by China’s ByteDance, TikTok has also faced increasing controversy over how it collects and uses data although it has repeatedly denied sharing user information with Chinese authorities.
Officials in the United States have accused it of being a national security risk and President Donald Trump has said he wants it taken out of Chinese hands.
In Pakistan – a close ally of China – no privacy concerns have been raised.
Neighbouring India has already banned the app, along with dozens of other Chinese mobile platforms.

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