8m TikTok videos blocked, court told

Published in Dawn on May 26, 2021

PESHAWAR: TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, has blocked around eight million objectionable videos and around 400,000 accounts for uploading those videos in the country, the Peshawar High Court was told on Tuesday.

Counsel for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Jehanzeb Mehsud and its director technical told Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed Arshad Ali that the regulator had increased the number of ‘moderators’ from 116 to 476 in the country to monitor the objectionable and indecent material uploaded on TikTok.

The bench observed that the court didn’t want to ban the TikTok service in the country and instead, it was only interested in the introduction of a mechanism to stop the uploading of indecent material on it.

It was hearing a petition jointly filed by 40 residents of Peshawar, who sought orders for the respondents, including PTA and Federal Investigation Agency, to ban TikTok to the extent of violation of the constitutional provisions, which don’t allow acts contrary to Islamic code of life.

In March, the court had banned TikTok service in the country leading to the blocking of the people’s access to the video-sharing app. The ban was lifted on April 1 with the court asking the PTA to ensure that no immoral and obscene contents are uploaded on it.

Lawyers Sara Ali and Nazish Muzaffar appeared for the petitioners.

The PTA director (technical) said ‘moderators’ had been supervising TikTok content.He said it was technically impossible to filter a video before it was uploaded and that even other countries didn’t have that technology.

The bench observed that Pakistani culture was different from those of other countries and therefore, the latter would neither develop any technology to differentiate between good and bad contents nor would they inform Pakistan about any such available mechanism. It fixed June 22 for the next hearing into the case directing the PTA to submit a detailed progress report.

The DG said the TikTok management had been formally requested to block all accounts, which had repeatedly been sharing objectionable contents.

The chief justice observed that the court would appreciate if TikTok was used purely for entertainment purpose but it won’t allow indecent and un-Islamic videos to be available on it in the country. The petitioners said the contents shared on the app violated constitutional provisions guaranteeing social and moral wellbeing of citizens.

The respondents in the petition were the federation of Pakistan through the interior secretary, ministries of law and justice and information, PTA chairman, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority through its chairman, and FIA’s Cybercrime Wing.

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