ANKARA

Responding to its suspension in Pakistan, Chinese social media app TikTok said Thursday it continues to work with regulators to serve its millions of users and creators in the South Asian country.

“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,” the platform said in a statement shared with Anadolu Agency.

“We continue to work with regulators, and look forward to serving the millions of TikTok users and creators in Pakistan who have found a home for creativity, fun and vital economic opportunities for many years to come.”

A Pakistani court on Monday ordered the temporary suspension of the short-form video app, the third such ban in less than a year.

The Sindh High Court made the order in response to a citizen complaint of “immorality and obscenity” spread by the app, directing its suspension until the next hearing in the case, set for July 8.

The court said that TikTok – wildly popular among Pakistani youth – had failed to keep its assurances that it would regulate content in Pakistan “in line with the local laws and … block accounts spreading vulgarity.”

The order said the platform failed to respect the law, basic injunctions of Islam, and the culture of Pakistan and “recently started a social media campaign whereby they are celebrating “LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride Month.”

Pakistan had blocked the app last October but un-banned it after assurances that the app would block all accounts “repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality.”

TikTok was again banned this March by the Peshawar High Court, with a later reversal warning the app management that “immoral content should not be uploaded.”

‘Worrying’ development

Rights organizations and officials have both voiced concern over the ban.

“The development is worrying and points at the disregard of citizens’ interests, and at the inclination towards prioritising arbitrary arguments,” Media Matters for Democracy, a non-profit working on media literacy and internet regulation in Pakistan, said in a statement.

It called on judges to take into account the interests of users when making such decisions, adding that bans based on subjective terms such as “obscene” and “vulgar” violate citizens’ free speech and right to access information.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also decried “judicial activism” in Pakistan, saying it has cost the country billions of dollars.

In a tweet, he said the country cannot emerge from its economic crisis without reforms to its judiciary.

Last year, India also banned a number of Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, following a border skirmish with China in the disputed region of Ladakh. The IT ministry said the apps “engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.”

Then-US President Donald Trump also ordered a ban on new downloads of the viral app in 2020, calling it a threat to national security.

Those orders never came to fruition due to a series of legal challenges, and Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, revoked the executive order earlier this month.

6.5M videos removed in Pakistan

Meanwhile, in its transparency report released on Wednesday, the platform said it had removed 61.95 million videos globally for violating its Community Guidelines or Terms of Service, including nearly 6.5 million from Pakistan, during the first three months of the year.

Of the total, 36.8% of the videos were removed for violating TikTok’s policy on minor safety, 21.1% for illegal activities and regulated goods, and 15.6% for adult nudity or sexual activities.

According to its community guidelines, TikTok does not allow nudity, pornography, or sexually explicit content.

It also prohibits people from using the platform to threaten or incite violence, or upload content that contains hate speech, and forbids the trade, sale, or promotion of “certain regulated goods.”

Besides Pakistan, most of the videos were removed in the US, Brazil, Russia, and Indonesia.

Over 11 million accounts were also removed for similar violations.

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