Pakistan’s Habit Of Banning Famous Platforms

On October 9th, 2020, Pakistan became the latest in a line of countries that banned the famous Chinese app, TikTok. The news was met with a lot of disappointment from those who love the platform or use it to expand their brand further; while in some cases, people celebrated the ban on TikTok as they deem the platform to be ‘annoying’ and ‘unproductive’. 10 days after the ban, though, we got the news of the platform’s services being restored with the assurance that there will be limitations in place to avoid immoral content from being posted on the app.

This ban might be a more mainstream one considering places like the US and India also banned the app not too long ago, but this isn’t the first time a famous platform has faced a ban in our country.

Our country has always tried maintaining a balance between modern global trends and our religious ideologies. Being on this bridge, there have repeatedly been bans and blocks placed on important products and platforms, like PUBG, YouTube, and Facebook, even if the platforms were necessary for Pakistan’s technical growth. In this blog, let’s have a look at the habit our country has with banning famous platforms.

The Pakistan-YouTube Fiasco

It’s no secret that Pakistan has a set of strict rules that apply to every form of media in the country, from televised to digital to social. So when these rules are broken or violated, there is no other route than to suffer the consequences. The same happened with YouTube in 2008 – well, it started in 2008 and continued for almost a decade.

The major video streaming app was banned on February 22, 2008, and the ISP ordered to ban the site in Pakistan somehow ended up banning YouTube across the world for almost 2 hours (imagine that happening in Covid-driven 2020). A few days later, by the 26th of February, the site was accessible again with the videos in question that triggered the ban being removed from the platform by its authorities. In May 2010, a ban was again placed on YouTube but lifted a week later with about 1200 web pages being banned from viewing in Pakistan from the platform.

But the biggest controversy in the country regarding YouTube occurred in 2012, with protests erupting in not just Pakistan but several other countries in the world, over an anti-Islamic movie being uploaded on the platform. This controversy led to the shutdown of the streaming platform in Pakistan after YouTube’s refusal to remove the controversial movie. And this shutdown went on for almost 3 whole years before Google came up with different country versions of the streaming app, with Pakistan getting a version with the assurance that it won’t have any objectionable content.

Pakistan’s On-and-Off with Facebook & Twitter

YouTube isn’t the only major social platform to have faced bans during that era, though. Facebook has also been banned time and again by Pakistani authorities for the promotion of objectionable content. When YouTube faced a ban in May 2010, Facebook was also blocked from being used across the country. This ban was lifted by the end of the month after the page that offended the population was taken off from the platform.

In 2012, Twitter was threatened to be blocked over some blasphemous trends. A block was placed on the site’s usage for about 8 hours but access was again continued with assurances from government officials that neither Twitter nor Facebook will be blocked in Pakistan.

Not only this but in 2017 a government official warned of an entire social media shut down if objectionable content is found on social platforms after the Islamabad high court ordered an investigation into online blasphemy. Pakistan’s on-again-off-again relationship with social media platforms isn’t surprising to the country’s population. What’s surprising is the same population is promised a ‘digital Pakistan’ which, looking at our history with digital platforms, seems superficial.

The Violent World of Video Games

So far we’ve only talked about social media, now let’s look at the video game industry’s lack of chemistry with Pakistan. A few years ago, Pakistan had banned games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Medal of Honor: Warfighter, for showing the country in a negative light.

Recently, when the country went under a lockdown because of COVID-19, the popularity of the interactive mobile game PUBG increased ten-folds. With people, adults or kids, sitting at home having nothing to do, getting involved in the game to the point of addiction. This addiction became the pinning point for the authorities, that we’re looking for a way to ban the game for quite some time now.

Hence, came the ban on PUBG, frustrating those who played the game and giving the line of reasoning that it was making kids violent, addicted, and unable to perform in academics due to a lack of attention.

Whether violent video games are good or bad for health has been a question that psychologists all around the world have been asking and researching for decades. But Pakistan has found a fool-proof method, one that would put all of Albert Bandura’s concerns to sleep. The method is not to answer rather put an end to this question altogether; just ban it. While it’s true that getting involved in something to the point of addiction isn’t healthy, neither physically nor mentally. The question is, should that be the government’s call?

Moreover, by banning these games won’t people get even more interested in exploring what it did to get banned? And we all know that only because it’s banned doesn’t mean it won’t be accessed through another channel. Social media platforms, games, even movies, and TV shows have been banned in Pakistan that ended up rousing the interest of people, and made those movies and platforms more famous than they initially were before a ban was placed.

Shows like Churails, games like PUBG, and platforms like TikTok have all become the new target of authority-approved bans and then got unbanned after discussions. That’s the common theme that all of us have noticed multiple times before, with bans being placed and then lifted with ‘stricter policies’ in place. But platforms like these corrupting Pakistan’s ‘moral fiber’ is quite an exaggeration. There are a plethora of other social, economic, and psychological problems that contribute to the country suffering the way it does, and a platform or show’s contributions remain minor compared to the environment that ends up influencing people the way they do.


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People love asking why Netflix isn’t collaborating with Pakistan for content the way it does with India, UK, and the likes. And the government loves to ask why Pakistan isn’t producing its own tech empire. But how do all those ventures become possible when the tiniest of pokes to the country’s ‘morality’ ends up in a nation-wide ban of popular, in-demand social and technological platforms?

Banning isn’t the answer, educating the population is. Blocking everything and closing shop at the first sign of trouble isn’t the solution, making the population aware of threats and giving them the option to choose what’s right for them and those around them is. Everyone needs to understand that banning a billion dollar platform doesn’t negatively impact the platform rather Pakistan itself, putting a block on the growth of the country’s youth.

If the country doesn’t break its habit of blocking every other platform or app for posing to be a threat, it won’t just hinder our technological growth, but it will do so by leaving us a backward and narrow-minded nation.

Maha Abdul Rehman

A content writer and a psychology major, I procrastinate for 6 months or write consecutively. And I occasionally watch (see: obsess about) Football.

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