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Pakistan Bans TikTok, Citing Morals. Others Cite Politics. – The New York Times

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has become the latest country to ban TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform, in a move that government critics said stemmed as much from politics as from allegations of immoral content.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement on Friday that it was banning TikTok “in view of number of complaints from different segments of the society against immoral/indecent content.” It said it had already informed the company about complaints about its content, but TikTok’s administrators did not address their concerns.

The regulator said it was open to talks with the company “subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content.”

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, said that it was committed to following the law and that it was in regular contact with Pakistani regulators. “We are hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us serve the country’s vibrant and creative community online,” it said in a statement.

TikTok, with its lip-syncing teenagers and meme-heavy videos, has drawn criticism from governments around the world, for varying reasons.

The Trump administration has attempted to block the app, so far unsuccessfully, citing privacy concerns and the app’s Chinese ownership, allegations that ByteDance has disputed. India has banned the service along with other Chinese-owned apps amid rising tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.

TikTok has also faced occasional bans in places like Indonesia and Bangladesh over issues of public decency, as well as pressure in the United States and elsewhere over privacy and content given its base of young users.

Credit…VCG, via Getty Images

On its face, Pakistan’s objections to TikTok center on the potential impact to society. Like users elsewhere, TikTok fans in Pakistan — about 20 million active monthly users, according to the government, citing the company’s figures — make videos ranging from do-it-yourself dance numbers to monologues about society, politics and daily life. Influencers also make money on the side. TikTok’s most popular star in Pakistan, Jannat Mirza, has accumulated 10 million followers with often soapy videos mostly about young romance.

But conservative Muslims in Pakistan have increasingly accused TikTok of testing acceptable social norms. They deemed memes and song adaptations as too suggestive and too risqué. Many people saw the content as lowbrow and vulgar. There were also growing complaints of underage delinquent behavior and display of illegal weapons.

Prime Minister Imran Khan — a former cricket star once famous for his flamboyant lifestyle who has become increasingly conservative since entering politics — criticized TikTok as promoting “obscenity and vulgarity.”

Ms. Mirza herself has called for regulating TikTok content and initially expressed support for a ban, though a local media report said she believed the ban should be lifted. She did not respond to a request for comment.

“Vulgar content exists on all platforms, but I would argue that the ratio might be slightly higher on TikTok,” said Saif Ali, digital account director at Empact Middle East, a marketing firm. “The whole platform is song and dance, so it was always going to ruffle feathers with conservatives.”

At the same time, critics see politics at work.

Political content has mushroomed on TikTok in recent months as the coronavirus has spread and the national and global economy have taken a hit. Political observers said that must rankle Mr. Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority “has blocked TikTok not because of immoral content but because TikTokers are poking fun of the Great Leader,” Najam Sethi, one of the country’s most prominent journalists, said in a Twitter post, making an indirect reference to Mr. Khan.

Many analysts and journalists say that the ban served a dual purpose: mollifying conservatives and curbing criticism of Mr. Khan’s handling of the economy, rising inflation and tough stance toward political rivals.

“After the Covid-19 lockdown, Pakistanis going on TikTok doubled to over 20 million active users while economic hardship related to livelihood loss and inflation hit the lower-middle and working class hard,” said Habibullah Khan, the founder of Penumbra, a digital marketing agency based in Karachi. “These trends seem to have combined to cause a tipping point in public opinion that got picked up by TikTok algorithms.”

Since May, videos critical of the government started showing up on TikTok’s main feed, Habibullah Khan said.

The prime minister has blamed past leaders for Pakistan’s economic troubles and has implored the public to endure the tough times and wait for a better future. “You don’t have to panic,” Mr. Khan said during one speech.

In one TikTok video that was shared widely a few months ago, two users mocked Mr. Khan by saying that the time to panic had finally arrived.

Supporters of the opposition political party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also started using the app to criticize the government. One such user, Saud Butt, a supporter of the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 1.2 million followers in a short time.

Government officials said the real issue was videos that they said sexualized underage girls.

“Had there been any political relevance of TikTok in Pakistan, there would have been a number of serious political commentators on the platform, influencing political discussions,” said Arslan Khalid, the prime minister’s point person on digital media.

“The claim that TikTok was banned due to political criticism is just frivolous,” he added.

Habibullah Khan said that TikTok videos had nevertheless undermined the majority party’s standing in Punjab, the country’s most populous and prosperous province, which determines the political fortunes of any political party in Pakistan.

“It’s hard to not conclude that the explosive growth,” he said, “and virality of such videos were at least one reason behind the ban.”

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Pandemic politics: Biden shuns 'false promises' of fast fix – CTV News

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BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. —
Focused firmly on COVID-19, Joe Biden vowed Wednesday not to campaign in the election homestretch “on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch.” President Donald Trump, under attack for his handling of the worst health crisis in more than a century, breezily pledged on his final-week swing to “vanquish the virus.”

The Democratic presidential nominee also argued that a Supreme Court conservative majority stretched to 6-3 by newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett could dismantle the Obama administration’s signature health law and leave millions without insurance coverage during the pandemic. He called Trump’s handling of the coronavirus an “insult” to its victims, especially as cases spike dramatically around the country.

“Even if I win, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “I do promise this: We will start on day one doing the right things.”

His comments reflected an unwavering attempt to keep the political spotlight on the pandemic. That was a departure from the president, who downplayed the threat and spent his day in Arizona, where relaxed rules on social distancing made staging big rallies easier.

The pandemic’s consequences were escalating, with deaths climbing in 39 states and an average of 805 people dying daily nationwide — up from 714 two weeks ago. Overall, about 227,000 Americans have died. The sharp rise sent shockwaves through financial markets, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop 900-plus points.

Trump, who frequently lauds rising markets, failed to mention the decline. But he promised that economic growth figures for the summer quarter, due Thursday, would be strong, declaring during a rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, “This election is a choice between a Trump super-recovery and a Biden depression.”

As Trump spoke, an Air Force fighter thundered nearby and released a flare to get the attention of a non-responsive private aircraft that was flying in the restricted airspace. North American Aerospace Defence Command said the plane was escorted out by the F-16 “without further incident.” Trump was at first caught off guard but later cheered the fighter, proclaiming, “I love that sound” as it roared overhead.

The president also condemned violence that occurred during some protests in response to the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, in Philadelphia saying Biden stands “with the rioters and the vandals.”

But Biden said in Wilmington, “There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.”

Bullhead City is just across the border from Nevada, a state Trump is hoping to flip during Election Day next Tuesday. A Trump Nevada rally last month attracted thousands and led to the airport that hosted it being fined more than $5,500 for violating pandemic crowd restrictions.

Rather than curb his crowd, Trump moved just across the border and used his rally Wednesday to scoff at Democratic leaders in states like Nevada for trying to enforce social distancing rules. The event’s crowd looked to be mostly from Arizona, though there were attendees from Nevada. Few wore masks.

The weather was far milder than during a Tuesday night Trump rally in Omaha, Nebraska. After Trump left that one, hundreds of attendees at Eppley Airfield spent hours waiting in the cold for transportation to cars parked far away. Several people were taken to hospitals amid concerns about exposure.

“Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttlebuses — double the normal allotment — but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays,” Trump spokeswoman Samantha Zager said in a statement.

Trump is trailing Biden in most national polls. Biden also has an advantage, though narrower, in the key swing states that could decide the election.

Biden voted early in Wilmington on Wednesday and received a virtual briefing from health experts. One, Dr. David Kessler, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, warned, “We are in the midst of the third wave, and I don’t think anyone can tell you how high this is going to get.”

Trump was nonetheless defiant, declaring, “We will vanquish the virus and emerge stronger than ever before.”

In a campaign sidelight, the president lashed out after news that Miles Taylor, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, was revealed as the author of a scathing anti-Trump op-ed and book under the pen name “Anonymous.”

“This guy is a low-level lowlife that I don’t know,” he said. “I have no idea who he is.”

Trump views Nevada favourably, despite it not backing a Republican for president since 2004. Hillary Clinton won it by less than 2.5 percentage points in 2016.

And Biden wants to flip Arizona, which hasn’t voted Democratic for president since 1996. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Arizona on Wednesday, meeting with Latina entrepreneurs and African American leaders as well as holding two drive-in rallies.

On Friday, Harris will visit Fort Worth, Houston and the U.S.-Mexico border town of McAllen in Texas — a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1976 or even elected one to statewide office since 1994. Texas was long so reliably red that top national Democrats visited only to hold fundraisers.

“I am really grateful for the attention that they have given Texas because it has been so long since a presidential campaign gave this state a look,” said Beto O’Rourke a former Texas congressman and onetime presidential hopeful. But he declined to predict that Biden would win the state, saying only “There is a possibility,” contingent on turnout breaking records.

Biden heads later in the week to three more states Trump won in 2016, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, where he’ll hold a joint Saturday rally with former President Barack Obama.

Democrats point to a larger number of their party members returning absentee ballots — results that could be decisive since more people are likely to vote by mail during the pandemic. Trump’s campaign argues that enough of its supporters will vote on Election Day to overwhelm any early Biden advantage.

Around 71.5 million people nationwide have so far voted in advance, either by casting early, in-person ballots or voting by mail, according to an Associated Press analysis. That’s already far more than the total advance ballots cast before the 2016 presidential election.

“We’re talking to people everywhere,” Harris said. “And there’s no area that’s off limits.”

——

Weissert reported from Washington, Jaffe from Wilmington. Associated Press writers Michelle Price in Bull City, Arizona, Kathleen Ronayne in Las Vegas and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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UNBC Alumni dipping their toes in politics atop Parliament Hill – CKPGToday.ca

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Hughes graduated UNBC earlier this year with a joint major in Global and International Studies and Political Science.

“The jobs that I held as a research assistant, student assistant, and journal assistant at UNBC were invaluable for the development of critical research and writing skills necessary for a parliamentary intern.”—Hanna Hughes, UNBC Alumni

Hughes says that she applied for the internship in part to gain non-partisan experience to prepare her for a potential career in government.

For her, her most memorable moment, two months into the internship, was when she was able to Zoom with former Prime Minister Paul Martin where she was able to “ask questions about the formation of the G20, his role as Finance Minister, and how to operate in a minority government,” said Hughes.

Lukac is grateful for his time at UNBC and says that it prepared him with writing and analysis skills which he says have been crucial for him professionally, “and perhaps more importantly, nurtured my passion for politics and political philosophy,” he adds.

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Two Religion Reporters Cover Where Faith and Politics Meet – The New York Times

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Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

The discourse surrounding the background of the Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the support of white evangelicals for President Trump has deepened political divisions in the country, and the conversations are two examples of why it’s important to understand conservative Christians and their impact. For our religion reporters, Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias, covering more political stories as the election draws nearer has become inevitable. We asked them a few questions about digging into the facts on the faith beat.

What challenges do you face covering religion in the United States?

RUTH GRAHAM One challenge in this particular moment is that the pandemic has made reporting so much harder. That’s true on every beat, of course, but religious observance in particular has so many sensory elements that really have to be experienced in person: music, prayers, food, décor, incense, emotion. Calling people up on the phone and asking direct questions about their beliefs will never capture it all.

ELIZABETH DIAS The polarized political climate has made reporters’ jobs harder all around. I’ve found conservatives are increasingly wary of talking with us no matter what the story is, from sexual abuse in evangelical churches to Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. That means these important stories often take longer to do because access to accurate information is harder to get.

Religion and politics seem inseparable these days. Has that always been the case, or has something shifted?

GRAHAM I think they seem inseparable partly because it’s election season, and as journalists we tend to view things through that lens ourselves. For ordinary believers, the connection is not always so clear. Some people clearly draw a connection between their faith and their views on national politics; others definitely don’t. I try to keep that in mind as a reporter and not force every story into a political frame.

DIAS Religion and politics both reflect shared, larger questions. They are both about power. They are both about people. They are both about how people structure life together. For centuries religion was politics, and it still is today in many parts of the world — the Vatican is a city state. Each generation works out its own relationship to these bigger questions and to history, and the election is just one way we are seeing that play out now in the United States.

Credit…Rozette Rago/The New York Times

How is covering religion during the 2020 election different than in 2016?

DIAS So much was revealed in 2016: the political influence of prosperity gospel preachers, who connect faith with financial wealth; the complete marriage of white evangelicals to President Trump; the depth of the racial divides within Christianity. Four years later these themes are all present, but that does not necessarily mean the election outcome will be the same. When the votes are tallied we will learn how the president’s religious coalition has and hasn’t changed after four years.

Would QAnon ever cross into your beat? What would that look like?

GRAHAM Yes, I’m actually starting to work on a Q-adjacent story right now. It’s a movement that has really taken off among Christian conservatives, and some have argued that QAnon itself is best understood as a homegrown religious movement. So there’s a lot of natural overlap on the religion beat.

What considerations do you take when reporting on religious groups that feel distrust toward the media?

GRAHAM The rising distrust of the media among a lot of conservative religious people is a major challenge, and one that is not going away. My starting assumption these days is always that I will have to work to convince conservative believers to talk with me. I do my best to acknowledge their wariness and explain why I want to include their voice in the story. All I can do is try to build trust by continuing to produce work that takes religion and faith seriously.

DIAS Trust grows over time, so I try to build long-term relationships with people I interview and to think of the body of work I’m building, versus only one specific story. Deep listening happens slowly, and requires appropriate empathy. I also spend a lot of time talking with people off the record, even though it means I may need to do more interviews, because I want to learn from them however I can.

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