Bangladesh’s telecom regulator, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission or BTRC, has blocked 20,000 websites including 15,000 pornographic and over 2,000 gambling ones, TikTok and Bigo, to “create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis,” reports AFP. This block was implemented through its International Internet Gateways.

MediaNama was unable to ascertain or verify the complete number of or the spread of these websites.

  • According to the report, most of these blocked websites were foreign, with some local social media ones.
  • The police are also reportedly monitoring Facebook profiles, YouTube channels and other websites for content, and have asked an actress to remove “provocative” images from her social media pages.
  • According to multiple reports, in the last 2 weeks, the BTRC has blocked 1,523 porn sites, and 244 porn sites at the start of this month.
  • It is unclear if these numbers are all inclusive or overlap in some manner. Apparently, this order will have been fully executed by the second week of March 2019.

The lead up to the block

In November 2018, the Bangladesh High Court had directed the government to block porn websites and the ‘publication of obscene materials in electronic form’ for 6 months. According to the report, an unnamed civil society organisation had filed a petition against uncensored and obscene content on adult websites. A survey conducted by the Manusher Jonno Foundation organisation stated that 77% of school-going children in Dhaka visited porn sites regularly. More info on a UNICEF study here.

Bangladesh had 156.989 million mobile phone subscribers and 91.348 million internet subscribers as of December 2018. Of the 91.338 million internet subscribers, 85.552 million were on mobile internet, and only 5.735 million on ISP and PTSN. The country’s population is an estimated 163 million as of 2016.

Internet block before the elections

In December, the Bangladesh government suspended internet services in the country for a day, a day before national elections were held on December 30. The suspension was ordered to “prevent rumours and propaganda surrounding the vote,” Zakir Hussain Khan of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said. The suspension was lifted two hours after polling ended at 4 pm on Sunday, but internet was slowed down again at 9 pm that evening again until further orders, per bdnews24.com. 3G & 4G services were finally restored on the morning of January 1 – after a suspension that lasted 37 hours.

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