Pakistan blocks social media app TikTok over indecency complaint


FILE PHOTO: The TikTok app's logo seen on a mobile phone screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration/File Photo

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan on Thursday blocked the popular social media app TikTok after a court order over a complaint that it ran indecent content, a spokesman for the country's telecoms regulator said.

"The court has asked PTA to block access to TikTok," Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) spokesman Khurram Mehran told Reuters, adding that the authority would comply with the order.

A high court in the northwestern city of Peshawar said it ordered the ban after a private complainant said the social media app was spreading indecent content, said Jehanzeb Mehsud, a lawyer who represented the PTA.

The service providers have been directed to immediately block access to TikTok, the regulator said in a statement.

The app stopped working within an hour of the direction.

A TikTok representative in Pakistan said strong safeguards were in place to keep inappropriate content off the platform.

"In Pakistan, we have grown our local-language moderation team, and have mechanisms to report and remove content in violation of our community guidelines," the representative said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to serve the millions of TikTok users and creators in Pakistan who have found a home for creativity and fun."

Muslim-majority Pakistan had banned the app in October, but restored it within 10 days after the company vowed to block all accounts involved in spreading "obscenity and immorality."

The telecom regulator said the social media company had agreed to moderate accounts in accordance with local laws.

TikTok has been one of the most-downloaded apps in the South Asian nation behind WhatsApp and Facebook.

TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, has become hugely popular in a short period of time, by encouraging young users to post brief videos.

But the app has been mired in controversy in a number of countries, with authorities raising privacy concerns and security fears due to its links with China.

TikTok has denied that its ties to China pose a security concern in other countries.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Editing by Paul Simao and Lisa Shumaker)

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