Is shutting down the social media platforms in Bangladesh the right decision?

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Is Shutting Down The Social Media Platforms In Bangladesh
Is Shutting Down The Social Media Platforms In Bangladesh

The Cabinet Committee on Law and Order in Bangladesh has decided that if the government’s complaints are not addressed, they will shut down social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

During a recent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Law and Order in Bangladesh, a decision was made to shut down social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube if the government’s concerns are not addressed. At the conclusion of the meeting, A. K. M. Mozammel Haque, the Minister of Liberation War and President of the committee, informed journalists about this decision. The minister expressed frustration, stating, “Facebook, YouTube, Google, they do not heed our recommendations on various issues. As there is no office here for anti-rumour and cybercrime control, we will assert that they are not listening to us.”

At the end of the meeting, the minister addressed the media, stating that if deemed necessary, these services will be temporarily suspended in Bangladesh. He emphasized that the government will formally notify international organizations about the failure of social media platforms to address cybercrimes and rumors, despite repeated complaints from the Bangladesh government and their lack of proactive measures to prevent them ( Social platform).

Regarding the potential action to block social media in Bangladesh, the minister stated, “Initially, the relevant authorities will be informed multiple times. If deemed necessary, advertisements will also be placed in newspapers to ensure transparency and to avoid any perception of violating fundamental rights.”

On behalf of the Bangladesh government, Minister A.K.M. Mozammel Haque has emphasized that if social media platforms fail to address the concerns raised by the government, popular platforms such as Facebook and YouTube may be shut down in Bangladesh. The government intends to publish notices in newspapers and raise awareness among the public to ensure transparency and accountability in this process.

The proposed action of shutting down Facebook and YouTube in Bangladesh poses significant challenges and repercussions. Thousands of content creators in the country earn substantial income through these platforms, while numerous companies rely on YouTube for their investments worth millions of Taka. Additionally, many individuals, including a large number of women and men, have achieved self-reliance by conducting business activities through Facebook pages. Halting these platforms due to the actions of a few cyber terrorists could jeopardize investments worth tens of thousands of crores and result in hundreds of thousands of job losses. Such a move would inevitably shock the country’s economy and bring about adverse consequences.

They are urging the government to implement a nationwide shutdown of social media due to the presence of hundreds of cyber terrorists deemed anti-Awami League, along with thousands of individuals opposing the government. Approximately 99 percent of those targeted by the government are currently residing outside Bangladesh, having fled the country due to various misdemeanors and sought refuge in different countries worldwide.

These individuals are known for their anti-independence stance and systematic opposition to the country and its government, often under the guidance of Tarique Rahman, the Acting Chairperson of Bangladesh nationalist Party (BNP). Tarique Rahman, who has evaded legal repercussions and is currently residing in London, maintains influence over BNP, which has been out of power in Bangladesh for many years and faces multiple legal cases. The dissemination of propaganda persists.

Prior to January 7, 2024, their agenda aimed at toppling the Awami League government by disseminating false and fabricated videos and images on social media. Their objective was to discredit the ruling party internationally, with the intention of securing support from the Western world to facilitate a change in power in Bangladesh.

Despite PM Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to free, fair, and credible elections, the Awami League secured victory for the fourth consecutive term on January 7. Now, with direct backing from BNP, they are engaging in anti-India and anti-Hindu activities on social media, as acknowledged by a BNP member. Under the explicit directives of BNP, another reprehensible scheme is underway, propagating ‘India Out’ and ‘Boycott Indian Product’ movements through social media, targeting our friendly neighbor India.

Returning to the primary issue, the ruling Awami League government has made repeated assurances to take necessary actions against identified cyber criminals or to curb their dissemination of rumors and anti-government propaganda. However, these efforts have consistently faltered for reasons unknown. The decision to shut down widely-used social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube across the entire country will undoubtedly present numerous new challenges for the government. This move appears to deflect attention from the government’s ongoing failures. Moreover, the government stands to lose tens of billions of dollars in revenue from this sector, presenting a significant victory for the opposition.

However, experts argue that rather than resorting to a nationwide shutdown of social media, the government can implement effective measures to combat anti-national rumors and control cybercrime within the country. The Cabinet Committee on Law and Order has tasked a special cell, comprising specific government departments, to coordinate with relevant authorities of platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Direct communication with these platforms, along with providing them with a list of objectionable posts and content, is deemed to be a more effective approach than relying solely on written correspondence or press releases.

In the event of unsatisfactory responses, the government plans to pursue legal action against Facebook and YouTube, seeking billions of dollars in damages in both US and International courts. This proactive approach aims to ensure that these platforms take accountability for their content moderation practices, thus avoiding potential billion-dollar compensation cases stemming from the actions of a few users.

Furthermore, there is a logical opportunity for authorities to exert pressure on prominent social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to establish regional offices within Bangladesh. This strategic step would streamline the management of online grievances in alignment with the prevailing ICT Act of the nation. Through the establishment of localized offices, these platforms can more effectively tackle issues and address concerns unique to the Bangladeshi landscape, thereby enhancing regulatory enforcement and enhancing the overall user experience.

Considering the decisions announced by the Cabinet on Law and Order, it is imperative for the patriots of Bangladesh to adopt a proactive stance in safeguarding public rights, rather than resorting to the drastic measure of shutting down popular social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube to combat rumors and misinformation. Only by adhering to the Prime Minister’s vision, as articulated in her announcement, can Bangladesh progress towards becoming a Smart Bangladesh, surpassing the aspirations of Digital Bangladesh. Failure to do so may impede Bangladesh’s technological advancements and risk regressing several decades, jeopardizing its status as a role model for development.

Author’s bio: Tajul Islam, a senior journalist and Special Correspondent of Weekly Blitz writes on a broad-range of issues in local and international media. Follow him on X @tajulraj1

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