Pakistan issues final warning to TikTok over 'immoral' content


By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD, July 21 (Reuters) - Pakistan's telecommunications regulator issued a "final warning" to short-form video app TikTok on Monday over "immoral" content posted on the platform, while live streaming app Bigo Live was blocked in the country for the same reason.

TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, is already currently facing problems with authorities in a number of countries including in Australia, India, and the United States due to security and privacy issues.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said in a statement that it had sent TikTok and Bigo Live notices to moderate content on their platforms after receiving complaints, but their response was unsatisfactory.

"PTA has decided to immediately block Bigo and issue final warning to TikTok to put in place a comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality through its social media application," the statement said.

TikTok representatives did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Singapore-based BIGO Technology, which owns the live video streaming app Bigo Live, did not immediately respond to a request for comment either.

TikTok is one of the world's most popular social media apps, with over 2 billion downloads globally.

In Pakistan, it has been downloaded almost 39 million times and is the third-most downloaded app over the past year after WhatsApp and Facebook, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Bigo Live has been downloaded over 17 million times in Pakistan and is the 19th most downloaded app in the country.

TikTok was briefly banned in India last year after a court said it encouraged pornography. While that ban was overturned after a legal challenge by the company, the Indian government recently banned the app following a military standoff on the border with China.

Though Pakistan is a socially conservative, mostly Muslim nation, it shares close ties with communist-ruled China. Pakistan counts China as its largest investor and most reliable ally.

The two apps are not the first to be targeted by the PTA.

In July, the PTA banned the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) platform, with over 16 million users in Pakistan, because it had received complaints "that the game is addictive, wastage of time and poses serious negative impact on physical and psychological health of the children."

Pakistan's recently passed social media and digital laws have been widely criticized by rights activists as being draconian because of the sweeping powers they give authorities.

(Additional reporting by John Geddie in Singapore and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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