Pakistan announced this week that apps Tinder, Grindr, Tagged, Skout, and SayHi will officially be banned nationwide for not abiding by the country’s moral code.
LGBTQ+ is illegal in Pakistan, the second largest Muslim-majority country on the globe after Indonesia, as is extra-marital relationships.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority sent notices to all of the apps’ management teams seeking their removal from Pakistan due to the “negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming.”
This summer, the country blocked the app Bigo Live for 10 days over what leaders deemed as vulgar and immoral content on the platform. The country gave a “final warning” to TikTok for the same reason, and last week it requested for YouTube to “immediately block vulgar, indecent, immoral, nude and hate speech content for viewing in Pakistan.”
These drastic moves are on the heels of recent legislation focusing on tighter digital censorship. In January, Pakistan passed a new set of regulations under the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, which oblige social media platforms to block or remove posts the government considers immoral.
While officials insist the regulations would help them monitor and mitigate content having to do with terrorism, extremism, fake news, or hate speech, it’s becoming increasingly clear by advocates that Islamic leaders are using the guidelines to rein in freedom of expression for Pakistani citizens.
According to Hindustan Times, data from the analytics firm Sensor Tower shows that Tinder has been downloaded over 440,000 times in Pakistan in the last year. Grindr, Tagged, and SayHi had each been downloaded 300,000 times in the last year, while Skout has been downloaded 100,000 times in that same period.