July 28th, 2021
The Sindh High court has directed the federal government to suspend the operation of popular short video sharing platform Tik Tok in Pakistan till July 8, over a complaint that it was running an LGBT campaign.
A single-member bench, headed by Justice Kausar Sultana Hussain, gave the directions on a petition filed by a Tik Toker that the social media platform is spreading immorality and vulgarity in the country. The petitioner also accused that Tik Tok was celebrating LGBT Pride Month through social media campaigns.
The court after hearing arguments by the plaintiff’s counsels placed a ban on the application and issued notices to the federal government, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Tik Tok.
The same complainant moved the Peshawar High Court for a ban on the short video sharing application last year and in March 2021, the two-member bench of the PHC directed PTA officials to suspend the operation of the application for a fortnight.
However, the PHC later lifted the ban after 20 days on April 1 with directions to the PTA to block illegal and vulgar content.
SHC in its three-page verdict of June 28 observed that both PTA and Tik Tok have failed to remove “obscene and vulgar” content from the application. The court also held that PTA was hand in glove with Tik Tok and did not pay any heed in removing the objectionable content.
The judgment noted that the complainant filed an application with PTA to ban Tik Tok under Rule 5 of the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules 2020 but PTA failed to do so.
Social media rules have been criticised by digital rights organizations, terming the rules a tool of digital censorship.
Digital rights activists also challenged the social media rules in the Islamabad High Court. The government has assured the high court that it would consult all relevant stakeholders on social media rules.