With TikTok being the most recent social media platform to be banned by the Pakistani government, and YouTube also getting constant warnings from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) with regards to unlawful content, it’s time to step back and think about some of the biggest stakeholders to be affected by these decisions: content creators.
It can be easy to view content creators as just another set of entertainers, doling out quality content for us on a daily or weekly basis and giving us a reason to smile or laugh or wonder or just think. But for these individuals, our engagement with their content means much more to them. It represents a source of income, and for many creators, it’s their only source of livelihood.
Consider Raza Samo, best known for his humorous and social commentary-based YouTube channels KhujLee Family and Raza Samo. Hailing from Larkana, Samo managed to amass millions of subscribers and views courtesy of his witty content. However, back in July, both of his channels got hacked, depriving him of not only his legions of fans, but also his only source of income.
While his account has thankfully been restored since then and he is back to doing what he does best, the incident shook him nonetheless.
“YouTube completely changed my life. After my account was hacked, Google disabled monetisation on my channels, so I was very stressed out,” he said in interview with Dawn.
For Samo, his YouTube account essentially represents a full-time job, and he does explain that he runs and manages his living expenses through earnings from his channels.
Samo’s case highlights the value social media platforms hold for content creators in our country. Every time an account is hacked, or a platform gets banned, the content creators suffer the most out of every stakeholder. They had this platform that allowed them to rise out of poverty and obscurity and gain national and international stardom, and just like that, it gets taken away from them.
Just like YouTube, TikTok is more than just an entertainment platform for the masses. It has given so many people the opportunity to express themselves and make a living out of it. Consider Naseer Baloch, a poor laborer who garnered three million followers and 100 million likes on the platform despite coming from an underprivileged background. The recent ban means that he has lost all of that in one fell swoop, and the same is true for others like him who relied on TikTok for a better quality of life.
“The government’s posture over social media platforms is very unreliable right now. If social media does not exist, then online businesses cannot survive as there will be no place to advertise,” says YouTube tech vlogger Bilal Munir.
The “government’s posture” might not change in a hurry, with fears looming that YouTube itself could be witnessing a ban in the near future. The last time it happened back in 2012 heralded a period of gloom for Pakistani YouTubers.
“It was a very huge setback for the digital industry of Pakistan. It was and is very harmful for us. Our YouTube is way behind India, US and other countries,” says Amtul Baweja, a travel and lifestyle blogger on Instagram under the name Patangeer.
While an outright ban on social media platforms is not the best solution, it appears that it’s the one that we can expect to define a significant part of our lives in the years to come. For now, content creators remain apprehensive, ready to diversify their sources of livelihood should another ban come their way.