While negotiations over the future of TikTok in the US are still ongoing, and could still result in a national ban, Pakistan has today announced that it’s moving to ban the app – though not for the same reasons as the proposed US action.
“In view of [a] number of complaints from different segments of the society against immoral/indecent content on the video-sharing application TikTok, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has issued instructions for blocking of the application.”
Pakistan, a majority Muslim nation, neighbors India, which banned TikTok back in June due to ongoing border conflicts with China. At that time, TikTok had become a huge hit among Indian users, with around 200 million actives, making it TikTok’s biggest single market, and given their proximity, it’s little surprise to see that TikTok had also been on the rise in Pakistan too, through Pakistan’s active audience is much smaller, with only around 35% of the nation’s 212 million citizens able to access to the internet.
As such, it won’t be as significant a blow to TikTok’s global numbers. But still, it’s another concern for the controversial app.
Various questions have been raised about TikTok’s potential to expose young users, in particular, to questionable content. The app was temporarily banned in India early last year due to concerns over “pornographic and inappropriate” videos, which eventually lead to TikTok removing more than 6 million clips, and implementing new measures to enable its reinstatement in the nation.
TikTok was also fined a record $5.7 million by the FTC in the US earlier this year in a settlement over allegations that it had illegally collected personal information from children under the age of 13, while its also currently under investigation in France due to concerns around its measures to protect younger users. UK authorities have also investigated the same.
And such concerns are indeed relevant – a report uncovered by The New York Times back in August showed that more than a third of the app’s daily users in the US are aged 14 years old or younger. Couple this with past questions around its moderation processes, including the demotion of content posted by users deemed ‘too ugly or too poor’, and it doesn’t paint a great image of the app, and its measures to assure the protection of younger users.
Given the various factors, Pakistan’s decision to ban the app is not a major surprise – but as noted, it’s another mark against the app’s name, which further taints the brand, and could eventually lead to a bigger push for more action against the app in other regions.
Definitely, it remains a contentious platform – its young user base, combined with its focus on dance trends, can easily lend the app to more suggestive and concerning actions as uploaders chase engagement. And that’s before you even consider the potential links with the Chinese government, and the app’s requirements to share user data with the CCP.
As such, while TikTok might not be losing a massive chunk of its audience with the Pakistan ban, the expanded implications are significant, and will further add to opposition against the app.
It’s little wonder, then, that TikTok is very keen to highlight trends like this instead:
TikTok literally pitched itself as “the last sunny corner of the internet”, where creativity and joy reign supreme.
But is that true? All platforms have to deal with moderation concerns, and those concerns only grow in line with usage. In this sense, TikTok should maybe be given some leeway in addressing such issues – but then again, its parent company ByteDance is very experienced in moderation concerns and dealing with potential issues.
How you view such will largely come down to your own experience of the platform and what it represents, but clearly, valid concerns do remain. Whether they lead to further restrictions on the app, we’ll have to wait and see.