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Saturday April 20, 2024

TikTok ban – again

By Editorial Board
June 30, 2021

For Pakistanis, life in the 21st century has meant a constant ebb and flow of bans and censorships. In contrast, there is a free flow of information across the globe and there is no earthly power that can possibly stop that flow. Be it for educational purposes or pure entertainment, there are multifarious options available for global citizens – or netizens, as they call themselves – which they can access with a tap. In this scenario when the Sindh High Court (SHC) banned once again the popular video sharing platform TikTok in the country over ‘immoral content’, it was a surprising move for many. This is the third ban within the last two years and for now it is applicable till July 8, which is the next date of hearing. The SHC bench issued this order while hearing a suit of declarations and injunctions.

Earlier, on March 11, the Peshawar High Court had also ordered the PTA to ban TikTok over ‘immoral content’. The PHC lifted the ban on April 1 after the PTA told the court that it had raised the issue of such content with the TikTok administration. The main concern of the courts appears to be what they consider unethical and objectionable material in view of the provisions of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016. When the then government was enacting PECA, activists and practitioners of social media had expressed their reservations about the application of this law which goes against the grain of social media itself. Now this law has given a justification for repeated bans and even initiations of proceedings against those who use various social media apps. The interpretation of cultural ethos and mores should be left open to those who practise them, and a watchdog approach is not appropriate, as it prompts social media users to utilize alternative modes of accessing online content.

The petitioners seeking a permanent ban of TikTok are citing damage it is doing to the ‘culture of educational institutions’. We have heard similar complaints against the use of Facebook and even WhatsApp which can be used for myriad purposes. There was a time when even cinema and TV came under attack as ‘immoral inventions’ that were damaging our culture. Moral policing of this kind has not worked in the past and will not work now. The best option is to raise responsible children and youth who are able to make their own decisions and to distinguish right from wrong. There are already thousands of websites which are blocked in Pakistan, but still there are ways to access those websites. The key is in improving our educational system in which our young are able to nurture themselves as thinking human beings who are conscious of what they listen to and watch.