The mobile video application, “TikTok” has created ripples across Pakistani society, garnering millions of users and paving the way for young people to market themselves on a cheap, accessible platform. The application has been a wonderful way for the youth in Pakistan, including lower-income groups, women and trans individuals, to share content and find thousands of followers.
Yet, as with all online applications and games, TikTok has also raised suspicion. It has received criticism from various groups and individuals on account of its content allegedly promoting immodesty and indecency. The wide-scale popularity of the online application has prompted it to be banned in several countries, and some groups in Pakistan are determined to see this ban followed here as well. An advocate, Nadeem Sarwar, has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking a prohibition on the mobile application, citing deaths linked with TikTok, as well as its alleged use to promote pornography.
The advantages and disadvantages of TikTok can and should be discussed, but this petition reflects an unhealthy tendency of our society to immediately ban any development we cannot completely control. Previously too, we saw the popular mobile game PUBG also be banned over similar concerns. This need to ban is also often expressed by older groups, seeking to extend reign in the younger population, who are utilising platforms and technologies that the former cannot control or understand. This is a new world, where older professions and paths to employment are quickly being replaced by automation—further disenfranchising the youth who are already disadvantaged, benefits no-one. A better approach would be to study the impact of TikTok with nuance and find ways to work with the application to regulate it. It would be more conducive to call for TikTok to expand its community guidelines, rather than outright do away with a meaningful platform for self-expression and artistry.