Focused View

Slipping down the authoritarian hole: Nepal must lift the TikTok ban

 “Acknowledging” rights is not enough, the Government of Nepal must uphold them.

Access Now is alarmed by the Government of Nepal’s decision to ban popular social networking application TikTok under the guise of “protecting social harmony.” The state’s move to bar more than two million people in the country from accessing the video-sharing platform is a gross violation of freedom of expression. The state has also failed to publicly release the recently approved Directives on the Operation of Social Networking 2023. Nepal must uphold the democratic values enshrined in its new constitution by reversing the ban, publishing the directives, and following due process to address any cybersecurity concerns.

To ban an entire platform like TikTok on vague grounds such as ‘disrupting family structures and social relations’ is not only a disproportionate move by the Nepali authorities, but also an undemocratic one. No single authority, without a check or a balance, has the right to wield online censorship as a tool to restrict and regulate freedom of expression online. Namrata Maheshwari, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now

TikTok, and other platforms, must be held accountable for their data protection, content moderation, and cybersecurity practices. But banning social media platforms is not an alternative for robust legal frameworks and should not be used as a tool to stifle public expression. Unilateral and opaque measures by the state, with little regard to public sentiment, impact on people’s human rights, and the precedent it sets for a democracy, are not the answer.

With some internet service providers blocking the app within hours of the government notice, the rushed, knee-jerk decision to ban TikTok is nothing short of alarming. Participation and transparency are essential features of rights-respecting democracies — and that includes allowing people to share freely on social media platforms. The TikTok ban highlights the worrying authoritarian trend of governments undermining democratic processes and seeking to control and limit people’s outlets of free speech with impunity. Shruti Narayan, Asia Pacific Policy Fellow at Access Now

Access Now demands the Government of Nepal reverses its ban on TikTok, publish recent directives for social media platforms, and consult all stakeholders to develop frameworks for platform accountability.