Pakistani regulators moved to block the popular video app TikTok in the country, citing the parent company’s inability to police immoral and indecent content on the service.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance Ltd., has a sizable user base in Pakistan. The app has been installed nearly 43 million times in the country, including 14.7 million installs this year alone, according to data from research firm SensorTower. That makes Pakistan TikTok’s 12th largest market. The U.S., by comparison, has seen over 200 million downloads, according to SensorTower.
A TikTok spokeswoman said the company is in regular communication with Pakistani authorities and removes content in violation of its policies in all markets where it operates. The company’s transparency report shows that it removed nearly 6.5 million videos in Pakistan between January and June, the third-most of any country behind India and the U.S. The same report shows the Pakistani government made four requests to TikTok about content, citing 40 user accounts. Only two of those accounts were removed or restricted.
Pakistan, one of China’s close allies, joins a wave of countries moving against the video app. Over the summer, India banned TikTok as part of a broad purge of Chinese apps. Indonesia, Egypt and Bangladesh have also taken steps to restrict TikTok.
President Donald Trump is pushing to ban TikTok if ByteDance doesn’t come up with an arrangement to spin off the app to U.S. owners by early November. Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. have agreed to purchase a minority stake in a proposed TikTok spinoff, and while Trump has approved the deal in concept, many of the details are still being worked out.
The spokeswoman for TikTok said the company hopes to get the app back online in Pakistan as it seeks to avert bans elsewhere. “TikTok is an inclusive platform built upon the foundation of creative expression, and we are hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us serve the country’s vibrant and creative online community,” she said in a statement.
The Pakistani Telecommunication Authority said in a statement that it issued instructions for the blockage but that it’s open to reversing the ban if TikTok complies with its orders. “TikTok has been informed that the Authority is open for engagement and will review its decision subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content,” the agency said.
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