KARACHI: On 20th July, 2020, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned Bigo LIVE and issued a final warning to TikTok on account of generating ‘immoral, obscene and vulgar content’ which has negatively impacted the society at large, and the youth of Pakistan in particular.
According to PTA, this step was a result of multiple complaints received from concerned viewers and an unsatisfactory response from social media companies to regulate content keeping in mind the laws of the country.
In a country where keeping a moral high ground often translates into close surveillance of content, this is not the first time that warnings have been issued to apps or channels for ‘indecent’ content. In 2017, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) imposed a fine of Rs 500,000 on Nickelodeon for broadcasting indecent content during an episode of Winx Club.
The channel’s licence was also suspended in 2016 for airing cartoons dubbed in Hindi when it had already been announced that no Indian content was to be aired in Pakistan.
The same year, PEMRA also issued a warning against URDU1 for airing ‘inappropriate scenes’ during Yeh Hain Mohabbatain, an Indian TV series. More recently, PTA temporarily suspended PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), a video game series. The action was taken as a response to numerous complaints made against the game being addictive and having negative impacts on the physical and psychological health of Pakistan’s youth.
While petitions against Tik Tok and its negative impact may have been in place since 2019, the app, amongst others, has recently served as an outlet for large audiences to express themselves and be creative while being confined to their homes. The recurring warnings make one wonder to what extent the local authorities would go to regulate a ‘safer’ digital environment when the country lacks resources to actively contribute towards a healthier physical and psychological health amongst its population.