April 1st, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Peshawar High Court on Thursday ordered restoration of services of the popular short video sharing platform, TikTok, after 20-day ban over ‘objectionable content’.
TikTok welcomes lifting of ban
The platform also welcomed the PHC order saying ‘it is a testament to TikTok’s continued commitment to enforcing our Community Guidelines to promote a safe and positive community online’. On March 11, the high court directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block access to the TikTok app following petitions seeking action against upload of immoral content on the social media platform.
“The creativity and passion of this community has brought joy to households across Pakistan and provided a home for incredibly talented creators. TikTok is excited to be able to continue enabling Pakistani voices and creativity as we work to support the success story of Pakistan,” the video-sharing platform said in a statement.
“We want to acknowledge Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s support and ongoing productive dialogue, and recognize their care for the digital experience of Pakistani users, which goes a long way to assuring a stable, enabling environment to allow us to explore further investment in Pakistan, and to keep open vital economic opportunities for Pakistani creators through TikTok,” the statement added.
PTA asked to submit report on blocking illegal content
In Peshawar, Chief Justice Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid asked the PTA director general to explain measures taken by the authority over the upload of objectionable content on the social media platform. The PTA director general told the court that the platform has hired a focal person to oversee any illegal or objectionable content uploaded to the social media app.
“PTA should have a mechanism to distinguish between good and bad content,” Chief Justice Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid remarked. The chief justice said that if the PTA took action against those uploading illegal content, people would stop uploading them.
The PTA director general told the court that they had approached TikTok to ban users uploading illegal content on the social media platform. However, the judge said the action should not be a one-time thing, adding that the authority should take further measures on stopping upload of immoral content on the app.
Jehanzeb Mehsud, counsel for the PTA, told the court that there were certain websites where it was not possible to restrict a certain content instead the whole of the website had to be blocked. During the previous hearing, the PTA had informed the court that the authority had blocked access to around 500,000 objectionable videos on TikTok.
The court directed the PTA DG to submit a detailed report on measures for blocking illegal content on social media platforms on the next hearing on 25th May.
Minister cautions against verdicts affecting economy
Reacting to the lifting of the ban on the social media platform, Fawad Chaudhary, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, reiterated his concerns over court judgments impacting Pakistan’s technological progress. “My submission is: let’s be very careful while taking decisions that may affect the economic future of Pakistan,” he wrote in his tweet, adding that the country needs ‘a framework to encourage international companies to make Pakistan their investment hub’.
Sharing Fawad Chaudhry’s concern, digital rights activist Usama Khilji, said that the ban on social media platforms was counterproductive to the country’s digital economy. “Blocking of apps by policy makers & judges with little knowledge of technology on the pretext of morality & obscenity is counterproductive to the growth of our digital economy, violates rights, & impacts livelihood of many,” Usama Khilji, Executive Director of Bholo Bhi, said in his tweet.