Bangladesh government may shutdown Facebook and YouTube

Bangladesh, YouTube, Facebook

In a recent development underscoring the growing concerns over the spread of misinformation and cybercrime, the Bangladesh government has issued a stern warning to social media giants Facebook and YouTube. The Cabinet Committee on Law and Order, led by Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque, has emphasized that if necessary, these platforms will be shut down to tackle the rampant dissemination of rumors and cyber offenses.

Speaking at a press briefing on March 31st, Minister AKM Mozammel Haque expressed frustration over the lack of action taken by social media platforms despite repeated complaints from the government. He highlighted the government’s efforts since 2018 to address the issue of propaganda, particularly aimed at destabilizing the ruling Awami League government. Activists affiliated with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islam, both within the country and abroad, have been accused of spreading false information targeting cabinet members and high-ranking officials.

Despite assurances from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and announcements from law enforcement agencies regarding initiatives to combat cyber mischief, Minister AKM Mozammel Haque noted that misinformation continued to proliferate, especially before and after the recent National Assembly elections on January 7th, 2024. He lamented the failure of Facebook and YouTube, which do not have offices in Bangladesh, to heed government recommendations and instructions.

Citing provisions in social media laws requiring investigation and action upon receiving complaints, Minister AKM Mozammel Haque criticized the platforms for their negligence in addressing government grievances. He warned of imminent consequences, stating, “We will prove their negligence in front of everyone. If necessary, they will be closed for some time.” The minister emphasized that the government would inform international organizations of the platforms’ role in perpetuating cybercrime and rumors.

Before resorting to drastic measures such as shutting down social media platforms, Minister AKM Mozammel Haque affirmed that the government would first request their cooperation in addressing government complaints.

Additionally, he mentioned plans to publish advertisements in newspapers to ensure global awareness and understanding that any actions taken are in response to the platforms’ failure to address legitimate concerns.

The government’s threat to shut down Facebook and YouTube reflects a broader global trend of governments grappling with the challenges posed by social media platforms in regulating content and combating misinformation. While these platforms have revolutionized communication and information sharing, they have also become breeding grounds for rumors, propaganda, and cyber offenses.

Critics argue that such measures could infringe upon freedom of expression and access to information. Shutting down platforms wholesale could disrupt communication channels, hinder businesses reliant on social media for marketing and commerce, and stifle dissenting voices.

Others said, cyberterrorists and anarchists are using Facebook and YouTube in spreading disinformation, while several individuals are also using the platforms in inciting violent extremism as well as religious hatred.

On the other hand, proponents of government intervention argue that decisive action is necessary to protect national security and public order. They assert that social media platforms must be held accountable for their role in facilitating the spread of harmful content and misinformation, particularly when they disregard legitimate concerns raised by governments. Owners of Facebook and YouTube have been continuously ignoring such realities as well as complaints raised by the Bangladesh authorities. Unless they immediately start taking action against the Facebook and YouTube accounts which are engaged in mischiefs, Bangladesh government may not have alternative to banning these platforms in the country.

As Bangladesh contemplates the possibility of shutting down social media platforms, it faces a delicate balancing act between safeguarding against cyber threats and upholding fundamental rights. The outcome of this debate will not only impact the digital landscape within the country but also set precedents for how governments worldwide navigate the complex terrain of online regulation and governance.


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