Bangladesh plans social media ‘intervention’

In July 2018, misinformation on Facebook was blamed for triggering a violent protest in Bangladesh. (AFP file photo)
Updated 06 July 2019
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Bangladesh plans social media ‘intervention’

  • In July 2018, misinformation on Facebook was blamed for triggering a violent protest in the capital initiated by students
  • Rumors and propaganda online also intensified ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections

DHAKA: Bangladesh will introduce a social media content control system as part of its “safe Internet” campaign from September.

Dhaka has in recent months been trying to gain more control over social media tools in what it says is a bid to stop fake news. 

In July 2018, misinformation on Facebook was blamed for triggering a violent protest in the capital initiated by students. Rumors and propaganda online also intensified ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections.

In September 2012, a mob torched and vandalized a Buddhist village in the Ramu district of Cox’s Bazaar, one of the worst religious attacks in Bangladesh’s recent history, apparently triggered by a controversial Facebook posting.

“We want a safe internet and it is our duty to look after the security of the people,” Mustafa Jabbar, Posts, Telecommunication and Information Technology minister, told Arab News. “Our main goal is to stop crime on social media. From September, we hope to intervene on content uploaded on social media platforms, such as Facebook or YouTube. This means that nobody will be able to circulate anything on a whim.”

Jabbar also stressed that social media should comply with the values, standards, laws, cultures and conventional spirits of the country. 

“Our local experts have acquired the capacity to intervene on social media contents uploaded from any account, and in every organization we will have a digital security force,” he added.

In February, authorities shut down the operations of Chinese video sharing app Tik Tok for not complying with Bangladeshi law.

“Now if they want to run here again they have to comply,” Jabbar said.

However, the minister assured the public that the move had “no connection” to stifling political dissenters or the “freedom of expression” of the people.  

That has not stopped some viewing the move with suspicion.

“This is a contradictory move against the rights of freedom of expression as protected by the constitution of the country. The government should instead prepare guidelines for social media contents incorporating the opinions of different stakeholders of the society,” Amirul Islam, a lawyer and constitutional expert, told Arab News.

Nur Khan, a popular Bengali human rights activist, claimed that intervention on social media would “limit the freedom of expression” of the people.

“There is a fear that this type of intervention on social media contents might be used to stop the logical criticism on different steps taken by the government,” Khan said.

As a part of safe Internet campaign, the Bangladeshi government shut down around 22,000 pornography sites at the beginning of this year.

In February this year, it also blocked Somewhereinblog.net, the largest Bengali blogging site, and Google Books.


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
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Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.