Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bangladesh blocks Facebook amidst global uproar

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH FOR the first time bans social networking site Facebook on May 29 evening and arrested a youth Mahbub Alam Rodin (m) for cyber crime.

Earlier in March 2009 Bangladesh blocked YouTube.com by unknown person for uploading sensitive audio tape which was purportedly recorded at a crucial meeting of the Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina with the senior military officers soon after the army crushed a bloody mutiny of the border guards.

Media activists, supporters of free expression and thousands of Facebook users have strongly protested the decision of the authority and maintain that Bangladesh is following the footsteps of Pakistan, China, Syria, Iran and Burma.

Majority of the nearly 900,000 users in Bangladesh engaged in networking with friends and relatives spread all over the world are youths who are angered by the action of the authority. Bangladeshi Facebook users living abroad have opened couple of accounts to protest the action of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh authority argues that Facebook has uploaded “objectionable” and “dangerous” content and the site would remain blocked unless Facebook authority removes those materials, but promised that the action is temporary.

The government is exasperated by the 23 years old college graduate Rodin who has upload several photo-collages of Bangladesh Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina and opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia in his account “BNP Support Groupwhich taints bad image of the government externally. The group depicts caricature of the present prime minister, which according to media specialists was not “inflammatory, offensive, provocative or insulting”. Possibly the government is nervous about its image and has over reacted, writes a local Bangla language newspaper in its editorial.

In the past Bangladesh governments has punished and intimated several journalists, print and electronic media blaming them for smear negative image of the government.

Retired Brigadier General Zia Ahmed, Chairman, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) believes that the activity of the youth as a threat to the unity, progress and sovereignty of the nation.

Anti-crime squad Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) allege that the youth was responsible of a number of cyber crimes using a number of fake identities in the Facebook. He is being interrogated, whether he is involved in a conspiracy.

"BTRC engineers tried in vain to block access to the links to the provocative images. The site [Facebook.com] had to be blocked," said Post and Telecommunications Secretary Sunil Kanti Bose to Daily Star.

For several days the BTRC has tried in vain to black access to the link of from the Facebook, failing to do so they took help of two IIG (International Internet Gateway) service providers. The commission tried second option to block the content of the Facebook.com by application of DPI (deep packet inspection) in data handlers -- a method similar to applying a filter to the server to block unwanted contents. But it did not work.

On the other front a number of religion-based political organisations demanded closure of the site on last Friday (May 28) blaming Facebook for spreading blasphemy by having a group “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”.

The parties that made this demand in a meeting at Muktangan include the Islami Andolan, Islami Oikkyajot and Khilafat Andolan.

Bangladesh authorities however denied that the Facebook has been blocked because of the agitation by the Islamist. The Islamist announced agitation programme after Friday prayers could not be held.

The decision came from a government that swept to power with a vision to establish "Digital Bangladesh" by 2021. The government has already taken steps to ensure freedom of the press and right to information bills in the parliament.

M Lutful Kabir (m), chairman of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology's information, communication and technology, understand that much harsher measure has been adopted by the Bangladesh government, he said.

Aktaruzzaman Manju (m), president of Bangladesh Internet Service Providers, termed the decision awkward. #