Pakistan Agrees to Lift Ban on TikTok After Reaching New Agreements with TikTok Management

As negotiations continue over the potential sale of TikTok in the US, the platform is also facing bans and restrictions on several other fronts as it works to maximize its opportunities.

To re-cap:

  • TikTok is currently banned in India due to ongoing border conflicts between India and China. TikTok reportedly had over 200 million Indian users before it was banned back in June, and it’s still working with Indian authorities as it seeks reinstatement in the region. Thus far, there has been no change in approach from the Indian Government.
  • TikTok is under investigation in the US, UK and other regions over both its links to the Chinese Government and its measures to protect the data of younger users. TikTok is currently only facing an imminent ban in the US if it can’t negotiate a buy-out by November 12th – though even that could be overturned based on legal precedent or, potentially, a change in Government in the upcoming election.
  • Earlier this month, Pakistan banned TikTok due to “immoral/indecent content” on the platform. 

So, TikTok is still mired in controversy – but maybe things are starting to sway back in TikTok’s favor. And maybe, this is the first sign of a shift for the app.

Today, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has announced that it’s agreed to let TikTok back into Pakistan, after negotiations with officials from the app.

As per the PTA:

As a result of continuous engagement with the platform’s senior management before and after imposition of the ban, TikTok has assured [that it will] moderate content in accordance with societal norms and the laws of Pakistan, and ensure that the users who are continuously involved in uploading unlawful content are blocked from the platform.”

That’s a significant win for TikTok – despite Pakistan being relatively small, it’s proximity to India could put more pressure on the Indian Government to lift its ban on the app, though in India’s case, the ban’s driven by geopolitical tensions, not the app itself. 

But even though TikTok is being allowed back into Pakistan, the deal comes with some key provisions from the PTA:

“The restoration of TikTok is strictly subject to the condition that the platform will not be used for spread of vulgarity/indecent content and societal values will not be abused. PTA will be constrained to permanently block the application in case said condition is not fulfilled.”

That means that TikTok could face an even tougher ban if it fails to police its platform more stringently. Which will be hard to do, but TikTok has committed to doing all it can to better moderate its content, and adhere to the regulations set out by the PTA.

As noted, this comes as TikTok continues to battle a White House Executive Order in the US which could still see the app banned if its proposed sale to an Oracle/Walmart lead consortium falls through. Some disagreement remains over the final make-up of such a deal – TikTok’s parent company ByteDance wants to retain majority ownership, which the US Government does not approve of, while whether or not TikTok’s famed algorithms can be included within the deal is still not entirely clear.

Each of these elements obviously impacts the final asking price, and as noted, it remains possible that the whole deal could collapse, if all sides, including the Chinese and US Governments, cannot agree to terms.

But TikTok could still avoid a US ban either way – earlier this month, a US court ruled that the proposed TikTok ban was not based on evidence, and rejected its suspension from The App Store. That could now be used as grounds to dismiss the whole case against the platform. There’s still some time to go, but it may well be that TikTok remains unimpacted, in any way, by the US ban talk. 

And maybe, as noted, this is the beginning of a turnaround for the app. Maybe, with the lifting of the ban in Pakistan, this is the first step towards TikTok moving away from these controversies and into its next stage.

We’ll have to wait and see, but TikTok continues on for now, and may keep advancing from here on in.

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