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TikTok: Pakistan reverses ban after 10 days

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement Monday that it was reversing a decision announced 10 days ago to ban TikTok after the Chinese-owned app committed to moderating content in accordance with local laws.

“TikTok is being unlocked after assurance from management that they will block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality,” the regulator said on social media.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said on October 9 that it would ban TikTok because of complaints that it hosted “immoral” and “indecent” content. But some analysts said the move was most likely about censoring videos that were critical of the government.
TikTok has faced obstacles in several countries. India was a huge market for TikTok until authorities in New Delhi banned the app, along with several other Chinese-owned services, in late June amid growing tensions with Beijing. In the United States, the Trump administration is fighting in court to block the app over national security and data concerns. A US federal judge ruled in late September that Trump can’t force its removal from app stores just yet.

TikTok, which allows users to upload and share short videos, has been installed about 43 million times in Pakistan. That makes the country its 12th largest market, according to research firm SensorTower.

“We’re pleased to see that the TikTok app has been restored in Pakistan and that we will be able to continue enabling Pakistani voices and creativity in a safe environment,” a spokesperson for TikTok said in a statement.

Pakistan began exercising control over its internet long before TikTok came along. Authorities blocked YouTube from 2012 until 2016 after an anti-Islam short film was posted.

In 2016, the country enacted a controversial cybersecurity law to regulate internet content. That gave authorities power to block a range of content for a variety of reasons — including in the “interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan.”

Between June 2018 and May 2019, the country blocked more than 800,000 websites, according to the human rights watchdog Freedom House.

Several apps have already fallen victim to bans this year. In September, for example, the government said it blocked access to the dating apps Tinder, Tagged, Skout, Grindr and SayHi on the grounds of “immoral and indecent content.”

Selina Wang and Sophia Saifi contributed reporting.

Read More: TikTok: Pakistan reverses ban after 10 days

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