Facebook shutdown on election day proposed at inter-ministerial meeting

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo as he poses with a smartphone in this photo illustration taken in Zenica.Reuters file photo

Several secretaries have proposed shutting down Facebook on the day of the National Parliament election to prevent the spread of false propaganda.

The matter was discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting on the 12th national parliament election, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal on 1 November in the conference room of the election building at Agargaon in the capital.   

During the meeting, senior government officials expressed their opinions, with several supporting the idea of shutting down Facebook on election day, citing the risk of significant damage if false information is allowed to circulate.

A secretary, who attended the meeting, highlighted on condition of anonymity, the potential for rumour mongers to mislead voters, emphasising the need to prevent such misinformation. He mentioned that the final decision on this matter rests with the Election Commission. 

Election Commission Additional Secretary Ashok Kumar Debnath confirmed the discussion to shut down Facebook on polling day but mentioned that no decision has been made yet. He stated that the issue will be further discussed in an upcoming meeting. 

Sources from the inter-ministerial meeting revealed that Chief Information Officer of PID Shahenur Mia raised the issue of Facebook closure. Subsequently, some secretaries expressed their support for the proposal.

The discussion emphasised the current spread of various rumors on social media during national elections, leading to disinformation and confusion among voters—a situation that needs to be prevented. 

The Election Commission convened a meeting with META Authority, the parent company of the social media platform, last August to address the issue of containing misinformation on Facebook during the election.

The discussions aimed to ensure that there is no dissemination of propaganda, hatred, violence, or confusion on polling day.

Another meeting between the Election Commission and META Authority is scheduled to take place for further discussions on this matter.  

Ashok Kumar Debnath mentioned that during the previous meeting, META authorities expressed their commitment to working towards preventing false propaganda during the elections.

Another meeting is planned before the elections to continue addressing and resolving these concerns.