Pakistan suspends TikTok again as court hears obscenity petition

Pakistan authorities on Thursday again blocked the popular TikTok social media app after a court ruling on a private citizen’s petition that accused the company of promoting obscenity.

“The TikTok ban is effective from today,” a representative of the company told AFP, and users confirmed they could not access their accounts or view the short video clips that have made the app one of the most popular in the country.

“It is absurd,” said Imdad Kazmi, studying mass communication at a government university.

“It affects thousands of people who promote their products, fashion and other goods. The ban is not a solution at all.”

Chinese-owned TikTok has been shut down twice before in Pakistan because of alleged “indecent” content — most recently in March, after which the company pledged to better moderate content.

It said Wednesday it had removed more than six million videos from its Pakistan service in the past three months alone — around 15 percent featuring “adult nudity and sexual activities”.

A spokesman said the content was removed as a result of both user and government requests.

In the Muslim nation, posting videos in Western clothes that reveal too much skin is taboo, and is often met with abuse. 

Earlier this month, small anti-TikTok rallies were held against what protesters called the spreading of homosexual content on the platform.

“We have grown our local-language moderation capacity for Pakistan and work diligently to review and take action on content in violation of our community guidelines,” a TikTok statement said after the latest takedown.

The Sindh High Court said the suspension would hold in place until the next hearing on the petition on July 8.

Freedom of speech advocates have long criticised creeping government censorship and control of Pakistan’s internet and media.

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