Pakistan announced Tuesday it is blocking Grindr, Tinder, and three other popular dating apps for violating a series of new rules that went into effect earlier this year. Known officially as the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, the new rules are aimed at curbing online hate speech, fake news, and terror-related and immoral content, but critics warn they are a thinly-disguised attempt to censor and control online content at large. The Hindustan Times is reporting the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) sent notices to the management of the apps, saying their platforms were disseminating immoral content in violation of the new rules.
The PTA previously sent notices to Grindr, Tinder, Tagged, Skout, and SayHi, warning against “the negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming” seen on the apps. When the companies did not respond within the time stipulated, the PLA blocked the apps.
Pakistan is a religiously conservative, Muslim-dominated country. While transgender Pakistanis are now allowed to self-identify with their preferred identity and update government-issued identification to reflect their appropriate gender, same-sex relations remain illegal and punishable by up to life in prison.
The new rules have been controversial since their introduction, with critics saying they amount to censorship of online content authorities find objectionable. According to Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, the rules were announced in January of this year and went into effect immediately with no transition period which would be expected with such types of new regulations. Critics point out that the new rules threaten to end user privacy, require all sites available online in Pakistan to have a permanent physical office in the country, and that all decisions regarding enforcement of the rules are made by an unaccountable national coordinator within the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.
The PTA sent similar letters to YouTube and TikTok. The letter to YouTube asked the video-sharing platform to immediately block objectionable material from being viewed in Pakistan. Authorities raised their concerns with TikTok in a recent meeting, and blocked the live streaming app Bigo Live for 10 days on similar grounds.