Women Taking Selfie on Bangladesh
Image Credits: Ashraf Siddiqui / Flickr
  • Bangladesh is escalating their effort to fight porn content on the internet, by blocking thousands of foreign domains.
  • Social media accounts are not left out of the authorities’ supervision, as users are receiving warnings about the content they post in their profiles.
  • Many are worried that their country is going to end up like China, offering a slain, colorless, and sterilized internet.

The Bangladeshi Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar has announced the government’s decision to block access to 20000 pornographic and 2000 illegal gambling websites. The populous Muslim country follows the steps of other South Asian countries, and their approach to internet freedom is getting strangulating. Jabbar has stated that the goal is to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis and their children, however, the crackdown campaign has targeted social media platforms as well. Reddit is one of what seems to be a set of side-victims, with no explanation of what threat the new aggregator constitutes to the people of Bangladesh.

Other platforms that have seen blocks being imposed upon them in the country include TikTok and Bigo, while the authorities have admitted that they are also monitoring various local Facebook profiles and YouTube channels to see if they promote unethical elements to the society. Some are taken down on the grounds of having indecorous content, while others have been given an official warning. One of the most high-profile receptors of such warnings is the local actress Sanai Mahbub, who was asked to remove vulgar images from her Instagram profile during her mandatory visit in a Dhaka police station. The officer that counseled the young actress said: “We highly respect freedom of speech in a democratic system. But her content has drawn protests from angry parents.”

Bangladesh is a conservative society that leaves no margins for free sexual expression, so blocking pornographic content from access by the 90 million internet users of the country is not coming as a surprise to anyone. However, monitoring social media profiles and recommending the removal of explicit content goes well beyond what would be inside the context of protecting the Bangladeshis from offensive material.

For now, the Bangladeshis are using VPN and proxies to get around the blocks, but it is almost certain that the government will order ISPs to block access to these services soon. Online censorship, no matter the ground and logic behind it is never a good thing, and when a path is blockaded, another way to get to the destination is bound to get formed. The General Secretary of the country’s ISPs has made the following statement on the matter: “We have complied with the blocking order, but many users can still access online porn by using virtual private networks or mirror websites. This is a continuous process and it needs regular monitoring. These websites are very well aware of the regulations and they come up with thousands of mirror sites every week.”

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