Pakistan issues ‘final warning’ to TikTok and blocks Bigo app over ‘immoral, obscene, and vulgar content’

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TikTok has come under fire in yet another country.

Pakistan has blocked Bigo Live streaming app and issued “final warning” to ByteDance’s TikTok over “immoral, obscene, and vulgar content” on the apps.

The nation’s telecom authority said it had received a number of complaints from various segments of the society over the nature of videos that circulate on Bigo and ByteDance’s app and how it is impacting “society in general and youth in particular.”

Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said in a statement that it recently relayed those concerns to ByteDance and Bigo Technologies, which operates Bigo app, and urged it to proactively “moderate the socialization and content within legal and moral limits.” But the response from these apps hasn’t been satisfactory, it said.

“Therefore, in exercise of its powers under PECA (nation’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act), PTA has decided to immediately block Bigo and issue final warning to TikTok to put in place a comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity, and immorality through its social media application.”

ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  Bigo could not be immediately reached.

The push from Pakistan comes weeks after its neighboring nation India banned TikTok, Bigo and 57 other apps developed by Chinese firms over cybersecurity concerns.

Prior to the ban, TikTok identified India — where it had amassed over 200 million monthly active users — as its biggest market outside of China. Like in India, TikTok is also immensely popular in Pakistan, said Danish Khalid, an executive at Bykea, a Karachi-headquartered ride-hailing startup.

According to mobile insights firm Sensor Tower, TikTok was the most downloaded app in Pakistan, which has about 40 million internet users, last year.

Some activists have decried Pakistan’s warning to TikTok and blocking of Bigo Live, calling the move nation’s attempt to “test the ground to what extent they can go in censoring.”

Earlier this month, Pakistan also temporarily banned popular mobile game PUBG over concerns that youth in the nation were “wasting their time” on the “addictive” app.

TikTok, ByteDance’s marquee app, is also facing tension in the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the U.S. was “certainly looking” at banning TikTok over concerns that it could be used by the Beijing government as a surveillance and propaganda tool.

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