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

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.


Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ launch fund to support Lebanon’s news industry

Updated 13 August 2020

Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ launch fund to support Lebanon’s news industry

  • The new program will support local media outlets

The Facebook Journalism Project, in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), has announced that it will invest $300,000 in a program that aims to support the stabilization and recovery needs of journalists and news organizations in Lebanon affected by the Beirut explosion.

The new program called “Supporting Beirut: Response and Recovery Fund” will assist in supporting local media outlets that have suffered damage to infrastructure and resources.

ICFJ and Facebook will award $150,000 in emergency relief funds to Beirut-based news organizations and journalists directly impacted by the blast and in need of urgent financial support.

The first phase of this program will involve identifying Lebanese news organizations and journalists who require financial support. These journalists and news organizations will then be able to apply for immediate emergency relief grants. ICFJ will award grants to select Beirut-based news organizations and journalists who meet a set criteria.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Lebanon and everyone affected by this immeasurable tragedy,” said Mohamed Omar, news partnerships manager, Middle East and North Africa, at Facebook. “We’ve been getting regular updates from our contacts in Beirut; the damage to the city’s infrastructure, including its many newsrooms, is enormous. In spite of these devastating circumstances, the news industry is working hard, under extraordinary conditions, to keep people informed and updated,” he said.

“We applaud their efforts and are continuously working with our partners to both understand their needs and support them the best we can,” he added.

ICFJ, a non-profit organization focused on raising the quality of journalism worldwide, will mobilize its local networks to implement a two-phase response and recovery initiative for the Beirut crisis.

Sharon Moshavi, ICFJ’s senior vice president for new initiatives, said: “People turn to local journalists for critical information on how to keep their friends, families and communities safe. As the impact of the devastating explosion continues to unfold in Beirut, ICFJ is prepared to work with the Facebook Journalism Project to provide tailored support to Lebanese journalists and news organizations that are providing critical information to a nation in crisis.”

The Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ will offer additional, deeper support to select Beirut-based news organizations during phase two, depending on the longer-term impacts of the crisis.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would donate more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs to support relief and recovery efforts, $1 million of which has been matched by its community as part of a Facebook fundraiser.