A month after temporarily blocking social media sites including Facebook and WhatsApp, the Bangladeshi government has now taken steps to take down Microsoft’s online chat software Skype and social networking service Twitter.
Citing ‘threats to national security’, the government ordered the blocking of the six leading social media apps in Bangladesh – Facebook, Messenger, Line, WhatsApp, Viber and Tango. The decision came after a supreme court ruling which sentenced two opposition leaders, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Muhajid, to death, having found them guilty of crimes committed in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
The ruling rejected petitions to review the war criminals’ death sentences. It divided the country, with many strongly protesting the decision. The social media ban was seen as a way to control any attempt at mass mobilisation among dissidents.
While access was restored to Facebook on the 10th December, local reports suggested that the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) had called to extend the blocking to chatting tools Skype and Imo, and microblogging site Twitter. These directives were issued to all national telecom operators via email. The notice instructed telcos to effect the blocking ‘immediately and until further notice.’
Sumon Ahmed Sabir, chief strategic officer of Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) operator [email protected], noted that the regulatory body had also requested that operators monitor the services, and take necessary measures should they change their IP addresses, port addresses or application signatures.
Bangladesh – a Muslim-majority country – has recently seen a rise in Islamic fundamentalism. Many bloggers and publishers advocating a secular society have been killed for their views – the Islamic State claiming responsibility. In October, atheist publisher Faisal Abedin Deepan was hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital, after filing complaints to the police about receiving death threats over Facebook.
In early August, a further murder case saw Dhaka-based blogger Niladri Chatterjee Niloy attacked by a gang armed with machetes at his home. Three people were arrested in connection with the killing, two of which had admitted responsibility for the murder over the internet.