Bangladesh shuts down popular blogging site in crackdown

Social media apps, such as TikTok and Bigo, were also blocked in the crackdown. (Shutterstock/File)
Updated 27 February 2019
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Bangladesh shuts down popular blogging site in crackdown

  • Numerous other websites and a number of social media apps were blocked
  • Telecoms minister said website was blocked due to offensive content

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s most popular Bengali blog platform has been blocked by telecom regulators in what critics Wednesday denounced as an assault on freedom of expression.
The somewhereinblog.net platform was among more than 20,000 websites that Internet service providers were ordered to shut down as part of a crackdown on online pornography and gambling.
But the platform, which hosts more than 250,000 registered bloggers, said it does not allow any obscene content, adding the crackdown was a clear attempt at censorship.
The sweep also blocked the Bengali version of Google Books as well as popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo.
“We were stunned after discovering our blog was blacklisted and blocked,” said Mozaddid Al Fasani, a moderator and spokesman for somewhereinblog.net
“Our platform, in no way, supports or spreads pornographic or obscene material and we always stay on a high alert regarding content that might hamper national security or sovereignty.”
The spokesman described reported allegations by the telecoms minister that the site promotes atheism as “disheartening.”
“We ... believe in the freedom of speech. As long as someone doesn’t cross the boundary (of inciting hatred) and expresses his or her opinion about social issues and religion, we see no reason to censor them,” Al Fasani told AFP.
Telecoms Minister Mustafa Jabbar, who ordered the crackdown, told the Dhaka Tribune newspaper that somewhereinblog.net was closed due to objectionable content.
“Have you ever gone through the content that blogging websites publish? After verifying reports on all the websites, we made the move,” Jabbar said.
Rights groups have accused the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which has just started a fourth term, of undermining free speech.
Last September the government passed a controversial digital security act that journalists said severely curbs media freedom.
Dozens of social media activists including celebrated photographer Shahidul Alam were detained for several months last year for social media comments about student protests in Dhaka.


Facebook CEO says delay in flagging fake Pelosi video was ‘execution mistake’

Updated 27 June 2019
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Facebook CEO says delay in flagging fake Pelosi video was ‘execution mistake’

  • The video, a type of realistic alteration known as a “deepfake,” was slowed to make Pelosi’s speech seem slurred and edited to make it appear that she repeatedly stumbled over her words

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said his social media company took too long to flag as false an altered video of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that appeared to show the Democratic Representative slurring and tripping through a speech.
Zuckerberg, speaking at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, said the slow response was “an execution mistake on our side.”
The video, a type of realistic alteration known as a “deepfake,” was slowed to make Pelosi’s speech seem slurred and edited to make it appear that she repeatedly stumbled over her words. After the video surfaced last month, it was widely shared on Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.
YouTube took down the video, citing policy violations, but Facebook did not remove the clip, only limiting its distribution and telling users trying to share it that it might be misleading.
“It took a while for our system to flag the video and for our fact checkers to rate it as false... and during that time it got more distribution than our policies should have allowed,” Zuckerberg said.
Pelosi criticized Facebook’s refusal to remove the video and said the incident had convinced her the company knowingly enabled Russian election interference.
Misinformation through altered videos is a rising concern in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, especially as artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used to produce clips that look genuine and realistically appear to show people saying words they have not spoken. The term “deepfake” is a combination of “deep learning” and “fake.”
After the Pelosi video, Zuckerberg himself was portrayed in a spoof deepfake video on Instagram in which he appears to say “whoever controls the data, controls the future.” Facebook, which owns Instagram, did not to take down the video.
Zuckerberg said Facebook is considering developing a specific policy on deepfakes.
“This is a little bit of sausage making here because we are going through the policy process of thinking through what the deepfake policy should be,” he said. “This is certainly an important area as the AI technology gets better.”