Pakistan began exercising control over its internet long before TikTok came along. Authorities blocked YouTube from 2012 until 2016 after an anti-Islam short film was posted, for example. In 2016, Pakistan enacted a controversial cyber security law to regulate internet content. That gave authorities power to block a range of content for a variety of reasons —including in the “interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan.” Activists say the law threatens the rights of privacy and freedom of expression.
Between June 2018 and May 2019, the country blocked more than 800,000 websites, according to the human rights watchdog Freedom House. Pakistan banned the app on Oct. 9 after officials said they had received a slew of complaints about indecent content. The app was functioning again on Monday.
“TikTok is being unlocked after assurance from management that they will block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality,” the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the national regulator, said in a statement.
The ban is notable because, unlike countries such as India and the United States that have already gone after TikTok, Pakistan doesn’t have a tense political relationship with China. The two share close economic, diplomatic and military ties, and Pakistan is an integral part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.