‘Blocking apps can’t be a solution’

Morshed Noman | Update:

.Despite government restrictions on Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp and other social media networks, many users of Bangladesh are able to access these through proxy servers.
However, experts are of the view that blocking social media cannot be a solution and technology-based crimes should be tackled with technology.
Though the government shut down operations of many social network services in the country, ruling Awami League’s verified Facebook fanpage was found functioning and being constantly updated on Thursday.
Social network sites of ruling Awami League are run by the party’s Centre for Research and Information (CRI). CRI executive director Sabbir Bin Shams told Prothom Alo that all admin panels of AL Facebook fanpage live in Bangladesh.
AL’s publicity and publication affairs secretary Hasan Mahmud said, “We have many well-wishers living abroad. They might have updated the page from foreign countries.”

Telecoms regulator Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Shahjahan Mahmood told Prothom Alo it is difficult to completely block social networking services like Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp as they are run by dynamic IPs.

According to experts, people could have accessed to blocked social networking services by new apps, proxy servers or other social networks. This accessibility is called ‘leakage’.

Former president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), Shameem Ahsan said, “The users access these sites through proxy servers.”

Viber, Tango, WhatsApp, Line, mypeople are some popular calling and messaging services across the world including Bangladesh.

Senior policy fellow of Sri Lanka-based telecommunication research organisation Learn Asia, Abu Saeed Khan said, “The government has no lack of commitment to curb terrorism, but there is no instance of terrorism being prevented by blocking apps.”

The National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC), which has been working under the home ministry, needs to be strengthened technologically so that it can be used as a platform for all forces.

IT expert Mostafa Jabber told Prothom Alo, “The blocking of social networks is like cutting your nose to spite your face.”

“Only technology can tackle technology-based crimes. Blocking cannot be a solution. Increasing capacity can be an answer. The country is lacking in this regard,” Jabber added.

State minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim echoed the same.

The government has already taken initiative to increase its technological capacity and is recruiting skilled manpower to tackle cyber crimes.

The government on Wednesday closed operations of many social network services, including Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Line, Tango, and Hangouts, in the country.


To this end, the BTRC gave two separate directives on Wednesday afternoon.

The regulatory body at first closed Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook and Messenger in a directive sent to mobile phone operators and internet service providers. Later, it sent another directive shutting Line, Tango and Hangouts.

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