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After four bans, TikTok finally passes the Pakistan challenge
Video app promises not to let naughty content cross the border, and to ban those who try
Pakistan has allowed TikTok to resume operations on its soil.
The nation has banned the made-in-China social network four times on grounds that it allows inappropriate content to reach citizens. Pakistan's test of appropriate content requires it to conform with "religious, cultural, ethnic and national security sensitivities of Pakistan". That phrasing translates into very low tolerance for content that mocks Islam, a dim view political extremism (especially when it opposes government policy), and sensitivity to lewd material.
As is its wont, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) tweeted its decision and the rationale for it.
Subsequent to imposition of ban on 20 July 2021, PTA remained in communications with the TikTok management.— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) November 19, 2021
PTA will continue to monitor the platform in order to ensure that unlawful content contrary to Pakistan’s law and societal values is not disseminated.— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) November 19, 2021
The decision is welcome win for ByteDance, TikTok's owner, as Pakistan is the world's fifth-most-populous nation and therefore a desirable market – especially as ByteDance recently re-organised its affairs in the hope of improving growth.
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Beijing will also applaud the decision, since Pakistan is as diplomatically close to China as any other nation.
But history shows Pakistan is happy to re-introduce bans if it feels the need. The nation has banned Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube on several occasions – often after just the kind of statement about a satisfactory rapprochement that the Authority has issued in this case.
Pakistan has also imposed short, sharp, bans "to maintain social order" ahead of protests or other moments when the government feels its citizens are best served by having some communications media turned off. ®