Pakistan bans TikTok, for the fourth time

Previous bans were imposed for nasty content, then lifted after promises of proper moderation. And here we are again


Pakistan has banned made-in-China social network TikTok for the fourth time, and there's no sign this one will prove any stickier than previous efforts.

A tweeted press release from the nation's Telecommunications Authority did the deed, at around 8:00AM on Thursday local time.

The latest ban is the fourth time Pakistan has given TikTok its marching orders.

The Register must confess to having only covered the ban imposed in October 2020. The app was also blocked in March and June 2020, for the same reasons outlined above: failing to block content that offends local mores. The June ban was brought, in part, because TikTok was out and proud in its celebration of Pride month.

TikTok escaped the October 2020 ban by promising to moderate content, and made the same pledge after the March 2021 ban. The June 2021 ban was reversed by a court.

The present ban coincides with the celebration of Eid al-Adha, a festival that marks the end of the Hajj and celebrates Abraham's obedience and willingness to sacrifice to the will of God.

TikTok is not alone in being banned by Pakistan on multiple occasions. YouTube has also been banned at least four times – once for four years – and Facebook has copped at least three bans.

Some of the bans are suspected of being politically motivated. The four-hour ban of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram in April 2021 was imposed to disrupt communications during protests staged by a political party that Pakistan's government has designated as a terrorist organisation.

There is no sign that Pakistan's Telecommunications Authority – or other government agencies – have a plan to end the cycle of bans and rescindments followed by more bans. Or, indeed, any real interest in stopping the game of whack-a-moral.

Nor is there much evidence that big tech is up to the job of filtering its offerings. ®

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