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The TikTok Phenomenon By Safa Imran

In Pakistan, when TikTok comes to mind, one immediately thinks of it as being one of the most frequently banned social media platforms in Pakistan. Almost on a coordinated monthly basis, there is a new court order that mandates the banning of the platform because it did not abide by PTA’s rules of blocking accounts that propagate “vulgarity.” In fact, the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry expressed his own outrage at the banning, stating that “"My head is spinning after reading about the decision to ban TikTok... What are our courts doing? The country has already suffered losses worth billions of dollars due to judicial activism."


There is little critical discussion behind why TikTok in particular is targeted – “vulgar” content can be found on any mainstream social media platform, and it is a feature of using the Internet as a whole. However, what makes TikTok unique is that when it first emerged within Pakistan, much of the lower middle class and working-class groups of the country, who are the otherwise underrepresented masses, joined the community. It was them who made TikTok flourish in popularity, and it is wonderful to see content creators who make videos primarily in Urdu, utilize local music, and showcase lifestyles, comedy and narratives that the average Pakistani citizen can relate to and engage in.




Above, you can see a screenshot of an account run by Usman Asim, a shopkeeper who has amassed millions of followers. And he is one of many such people who have found themselves with followers in the thousands and even millions, and the ability to influence and content create. Since TikTok is clearly one of the few truly democratic social media spaces where the masses have significant input in, this is one of the very reasons why that the state feels more anxious in regulating and policing it. A social media space that has given unprecedented access to sizeable groups of the population that was previously left out is something that needs to be monitored carefully by the eyes of a police state. Vulgarity, therefore, becomes a petty and superficial reason that acts as a scapegoat to mask what are really censoring efforts. Even if vulgarity has been perceived (though what is vulgar is usually only applied to women even if they are doing innocuous things like dancing), it is something that cannot be escaped anywhere on the Internet, so why target TikTok in particular? It is unfortunate that the freedom of speech and expression of countless Pakistani citizens is at stake every time government mechanisms find a new excuse to arbitrarily ban a social media platform.


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I completely agree that in Pakistan the largest demographic on TikTok is the working class and it's very interesting to witness

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Loveeee your take on this and i completely agree! People in Pakistan call TikTok vulgar and cringey simply because they can not handle seeing the lower classes have a platform where they can freely express themselves

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Sara Arif
Sara Arif
2021年7月07日

Love this!

I recently read about how through Tiktok, protestors got their voice across a multi national who was exploiting its worker for decades and after it blew up on social media and tiktok, those people finally had their voices heard. Every media instrument has its pros and cons if monitored and kept in check. Even though at one point this application annoyed me so much, I know it has also done a lot of good but people who have power are suffering through it thus they want it banned.

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Quite interesting to see your take on this, it is also frustrating to see the way people think of TikTok as a platform of expression. Some view those putting content on it as beneath themselves and feel as if the content on it is subpar. I was on Instagram today and saw these stories by Irfan Junejo where he announced that he's made an account on TikTok and started receiving messages where people opposed it, to which he countered that content creators in the west also have TikTok accounts and that it shouldn't be a platform that is looked down upon.

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safa.imran11
safa.imran11
2021年7月07日
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I actually have a TikTok account and while I don't post videos on it because I am not good at making them, some of the western accounts i follow there are truly incredible. there are sooo many amazing cooking channels, makeup artists, art accounts and even a very cool film maker who makes miniature films for her tiktok channel

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Bilal Tayyab
Bilal Tayyab
2021年7月07日

The things this country has done to save themselves from 'vulgarity' are absurd


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