While most of the blocked sites are foreign, a few local websites and social media
platforms have also been targeted by the government censorship. One of these websites, somewhereinblog.net, is the largest Bengali-language community blog platform in the world.
The post and telecommunications minister blamed the site for
spreading atheism in Bangladesh.
A group of 33 Bangladeshi university teachers, journalists, bloggers, and activists have demanded that the government lift the ban on the blog platform immediately.
Now is the season of school final exams in Bangladesh and the government is trying hard to cope with the issue of exam questions leaking online.
Leaking exam questions have become a regular phenomenon in public examinations like
Junior School Certificate (JSC), Senior School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC), medical college and university admission tests, and state-owned bank recruitment exams over the last several years in Bangladesh.
Mostly using Facebook and WhatsApp, people sell exam questions ahead of the nationwide examinations. A few hours before the exam, the questions are often given away for free. The offenders in most of these cases have not been
identified. These leaks have cast a shadow over the quality of exams and the process of assessing students.
In January, the Education Minister hinted that Facebook would be shut down during the exams to prevent these leaks.
On February 11, 2018, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission instructed all internet service providers in Bangladesh to shut off mobile internet and reduce broadband speeds to 25 kbps from 8:00am-10:30am on exam days
throughout the remainder of February.
But on February 12, 2018 morning, within an hour from the start of the internet shutdown, the government backtracked and ordered ISPs to ensure uninterrupted internet service. It took some
hours for the ISPs to implement the new order and things were normal again. The authorities have instead imposed a mobile phone ban near the exam halls.
Netizens criticized the move, using sarcasm and satire to express their
dissatisfaction and protest the rash and whimsical decision.
For now, with demand for exam questions increasing, the leaks continue. How the government will choose to combat the problem, short of an internet shutdown, remains to
The Bangladesh government has started an initiative to block several hundred pornography websites and already sent a list of more than 500 sites, mostly locally hosted, to ISPs.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sent the
list to all the mobile phone operators, international gateway operators, international internet gateway operators, interconnection exchange operators, internet service providers and other telecom service providers to block the domains from their
After receiving the list the operators have started to comply with the directive. However, a few of the websites could not be blocked immediately due to technical challenges, said BTRC officials.
The government actually
wants to create massive awareness about the issue and as many hurdles as possible in browsing those sites. Tarana Halim, state minister for post and telecommunications division, said:
Initially we have decided to block
around 500 websites that contain pornography, obscene pictures and video contents. In the first phase we will go for blocking the locally hosted sites
The Daily Star has obtained a copy of an email that contained a list of 510
websites branded as pornographic by an 'offensive online content control committee'.
The Bangladesh and UK governments have started a process to block pornographic websites and stop publication of offensive contents in the countries.
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Division and British Board of Film Censors have formed committees to detect and block websites that contain pornography, vulgar picture and video contents, according to a news agency report.
The committees will
make a three-level technical proposal by listing such websites ad contents within a week, State Minister for Telecommunications Tarana Halim said. The process to block these will start after getting the list and proposal, she said after a meeting on
controlling offensive internet contents at the Secretariat .
A director general of telecoms regulators BTRC will head the committee, which will comprise representatives from National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC), internet service
providers (ISPs), mobile-phone operators and law-enforcing agencies. David Austin of the BBFC will spearhead UK censorship efforts.
Tarana said the drive against internet pornography will continue even after blocking the listed porn websites. And
no doubt speaking for the UK too, she said:
The availability of internet pornography and offensive content is creating a negative social impact on all the citizens, including the adolescents.
Bangladesh's telecommunication authorities have unblocked YouTube in Bangladesh after 260 days of restricting access within the country to the video sharing website.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) blocked YouTube on
September 17, 2012 to ban people from watching a trailer of a US film titled Innocence of Muslims , which mocks Islam and the religious character Muhammad. The telecoms censor claimed that it contacted Google prior to the ban asking them to
remove the video, but Google reportedly refused to oblige.
The ban was lifted on June 5, 2013, making the site accessible to Bangladeshi netizens once again.
The block actually incurred a loss for the Bangladeshi economy, according to Fahim
Mashroor, the ex-Secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services. He said in an interview with German radio Deutsche Welle that the outsourcing industry suffered due to the ban. Last year, Bangladeshis earned 57 million US
dollars working for the online outsourcing industry.
Bangladesh has announced plans to monitor social media networks such as Facebook in a bid to identify bloggers who have been accused of insulting Islam and the religious character Mohammed.
A special panel is being set up, including leaders of the
main intelligence agencies and the telecoms regulator, to exchange information and track down the people behind recent posts that have caused 'outrage' among Islamic groups.
Mainuddin Khandaker, a senior home ministry official who will head the
We will try our best to dig out what's actually happening and find out the people who're making blasphemous comments against Islam and the Prophet.
There might be differences
in opinion, but that does not mean anyone in the country has the rights to mock others' beliefs.
Islamic parties and leading clerics have targeted writings by atheist bloggers, calling nationwide strikes in protest and demanding the
execution of those they accuse of blasphemy. Last month an alleged anti-Islam blogger was murdered. At least eight people have been killed in the anti-blasphemy protests. The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the violence,
as well as stepping up security for the bloggers, some of whom claim to have been threatened by the activists of a leading Islamic party.