Pakistan on Friday banned the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok, as authorities press their clampdown on “immoral” content.
Chinese-owned TikTok which has become a global sensation with its short video clips has a huge user base among young Pakistanis, with some attracting millions of followers.
But it has come up against backlash in the ultra-conservative Islamic country, where in recent months several dating apps including Tinder and Grindr have also been banned and YouTube threatened with shutdown.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Friday said TikTok had failed to adhere to two warnings, which had demanded it block “immoral, obscene and vulgar” content.
“The application failed to fully comply with the instructions, therefore, directions were issued for blocking of TikTok application in the country”, the PTA said in a statement.
Pakistanis were unable to access the app on Friday evening.
Arslan Khalid, a digital media adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan, has previously claimed the “exploitation, objectification & sexualization of young girls on TikTok” was causing pain to parents.
Earlier this week, Pakistani TikToker Jannat Mirza became the first in the country to reach 10 million followers, with lip-syncing and slow-motion clips among her content.
“TikTok is a major source of entertainment for lower and middle-class Pakistanis, as well as illiterate citizens that include half the population as it is video-based and easy to use,” said Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist, who said the ban violates freedom of speech.
Akhlaq Ahmed, who ran a TikTok account with friends from the remote town of Jhal Magsi in Balochistan province, said the news was like “losing someone from my family”.
“The ban is unfair and unjustified… instead of banning the app the PTA should have called on TikTok to ban those users,” he said of the “immoral” content.
Campaigners have long criticized the creeping censorship and control of Pakistan’s internet, printed and electronic media.
PTA said it would review its decision if the app put in place mechanisms to moderate unlawful content.
In a statement, TikTok said it was “hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us serve the country’s vibrant and creative online community”.
The app was blocked in Bangladesh last year as part of a clampdown on pornography, while Indonesia briefly blocked access over blasphemy concerns.
Owned by China’s ByteDance, it has also faced increasing controversy over how it collects and uses data although it has repeatedly denied sharing user information with Chinese authorities.
The app is facing a possible ban in the United States after officials said it was a national security risk and President Donald Trump said he wanted it taken out of Chinese hands.
Neighbouring India has already banned the app, along with dozens of other Chinese mobile platforms.