The electronic authorities and the digital and moral gatekeepers of the country have once again rushed to our collective rescue by banning the popular social media platform, TikTok. This is not the first time the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the regulator of the massive flow of information online, has banned websites or apps, TikTok in particular. And on this evidence, this is surely not the last time such actions will be taken.
The internet appears to have opened a Pandora’s box for locals and local authorities, many of whom refuse to look beyond strict, fundamentalist, religiously biased, highly patriarchal and in some cases, self-serving definitions, of what is moral, obscene or offensive. The matter has done several rounds in most of the superior courts while its consequences have exposed what goes on behind closed doors of some of the country’s highest power corridors. But we keep finding ourselves back at square one, like some cruel joke where the internet and the universe are trying to teach us an integral lesson but one which we keep ignoring.
The internet is the purveyor of knowledge. Often, completely brash and unfiltered. For those who have for generations thrived on existing in a society where information is tightly controlled, such concepts threaten their existence. Fact is, these are low hanging fruits that just feed the power narrative for those who run the land. The tougher fruit remains to apprehend those who sexually harass, rape and behead fellow citizens.
A ban, thus, will do little to dissuade the ‘obscene’ and ‘vulgar’ which will only find another platform to exist on. What we need to understand is that the internet is a place populated by content and information produced by its very consumer — including the very vulgar, the obscene, and the offensive. Perhaps we will be better served by teaching our children the difference between good and evil, righteous and obscene, love and hate, divine and sacrilegious and trusting them to make the right choice.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2021.
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