Pakistan ready to unblock TikTok if ‘vulgar’ content removed

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Updated 12 October 2020

Pakistan ready to unblock TikTok if ‘vulgar’ content removed

  • Adverse economic effects include depriving creators of livelihoods, deterring investors and harming digitization policy

KARACHI: TikTok will be unblocked in Pakistan if the platform removes “vulgar” content, a government minister said Saturday.

The Chinese app was banned for failing to remove “immoral” content after being given time to comply with instructions from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Information and Technology Minister Syed Aminul Haque said the block would be lifted if the app carried out the required cleanup.

"For the time being, (TikTok) has been closed,” he told Arab News. “If they give a guarantee, then it will be allowed to reopen. They were warned twice during the last three months to remove the vulgarity-related content. Every time they promised, but did not comply.” 

He said that the government was ready to talk to TikTok.

“If they approach (us), we will sit with them and after removal of the content, it (the app) will be restored,” Haque added.

In September the PTA said it had approached TikTok to immediately block “objectionable content” available on its platform in Pakistan and prevent the use of its platform “for disseminating illegal content.”

It did not say at the time what actions it would take if TikTok did not comply.

The decision to block the app has caused a debate, with experts warning that it would have an adverse economic impact.

“Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and TikTok are the cheapest source of marketing outreach and fastest conversion sources,” Badar Khushnood, a member of the National E-Commerce Council, told Arab News. “If the touch points of access to the market are closed and we don’t understand their needs, then many small and micro businesses will be affected. Their marketing cost was low due to these marketing tools. It would be far better to make a decision by multi-stakeholder engagement. We need to understand how these new communication technologies operate. How to align our cultural, religious, and national agendas with them for this deep multi-stakeholder engagement is must.”

The ban is also seen as detrimental to the government’s Digital Pakistan Policy to accelerate digitization for economic development.

“It shows a regulatory environment where apps can be blocked and that makes the environment unfriendly to investors, especially in the tech sector at a time where the IT sector is growing," Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi, a civil society organization geared toward advocacy, policy, and research in the areas of digital rights in Pakistan, told Arab News. “Moreover, apps like TikTok are a source of income for thousands of content creators, with some having a following of more than 10 million. This shows the economic potential that such a ban averts to the detriment of so many creative Pakistanis.”

One of Pakistan's most popular TikTok celebrities, Hareem Shah, said the ban would affect those who made a living from the platform.

“If we look at TikTok, there are many poor (people) who have taken to this platform as a means of livelihood,” she added. “Their means of livelihood has been taken away ... This should not happen.”

According to political analysts, blocking social media platforms made Pakistan look like a country that was unenthusiastic about allowing innovative disruptive technology companies to grow.

Pakistan blocked five dating apps in August: Tinder, Tagged, Skout, Grindr and SayHi. 

In July, the PTA said it had banned the Singaporean live-streaming app Bigo over “immoral, obscene and vulgar content.” Bigo was subsequently unblocked. The hugely popular online game PUBG was also banned in Pakistan throughout July.

“Applying laws in such a broad manner does not send the right message to local and international investors and start-ups,” political economist Uzair Younus told Arab News. “It raises clouds over Pakistan’s technology sector.”


Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

Updated 20 October 2020

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

  • Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets
  • Shoueiry founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region

RIYADH: Publicis Groupe MEA today announced the departure of Kamal Dimachkie, chief operating officer, Publicis Communications, UAE and Lower Gulf. Dimachkie is a senior executive who joined Leo Burnett in February 1985. The company has appointed Samer Shoueiry to assume the role in conjunction with his current responsibilities as chief digital officer, Publicis Communications, Middle East from Dec. 1. Dimachkie’s decision to leave comes after 33 years with the company. He will leave his current position on Dec. 31 and continue to act in a consultative capacity until June 2021 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets including the US, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Raja Trad, executive chairman at Publicis Groupe MEA said: “I respect Kamal’s decision. He has been a friend and a colleague for over three decades, and not just I but the entire Publicis Groupe family will miss him. His tenure at the Groupe has been characterized by a clear commitment to values that are central to our philosophy. Kamal’s adept leadership propelled the agency to new heights — we won more than 250 accolades and added numerous international and local clients to our roster. I want to thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the Groupe and wish him all the best for his professional future.”

Dimachkie added: “Leo Burnett and Publicis Groupe have been my life for the past 33 years, and I am proud to have been a part of a glorious journey during which I have had the opportunity to serve the company in different roles in six countries, to have contributed to numerous clients and raised the bar internally and within the industry. Part of this has been the joy of working with a wonderful team and leadership, whom I have partnered with, learnt from and shall forever call my friends and brothers in arms. I am grateful to have lived the glory days of advertising with one of the best agencies in the world and to have worked with some of the most inspiring and creative people. I look forward to working with Samer on the upcoming transition and wish him success in his new role.”

Shoueiry, who will take on Dimachkie’s role, has over 21 years of experience across business, design and innovation. He has consistently delivered a robust performance in Publicis’ Experience Design and Experience Strategy, founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region.

Commenting on his appointment, Trad said: “Samer has a record of leadership and value creation, deep experience in generating groundbreaking brand experiences, as well as a focus on strategic design, innovation excellence and a strong technological footing. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to drive our digital transformation in the region and support the spread of innovation through investments in our people, technology, platforms and tools. Together, we will ensure that we continue to move our business forward in the Connected Age through a data-led, digital-first approach.”

Shoueiry further added: “Kamal has built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team and expanding our scope of work. The current climate has accelerated digital transformation globally, and we are looking at a future where online and offline coexist to augment consumer experience in an interconnected brand universe. E-commerce is a necessity, digital equities are your flagship stores, search and social your new outdoor. With this new beginning, I will focus on further strengthening our creative strategy-to-results development to offer the best consumer-centric experiences and build brand value.”