Bangladesh lifts ban on Facebook

Written by Mohammed Farooq

Topics: Social Networks

Bangladesh lifted a ban on Facebook yesterday, a week after it blocked the popular social networking site over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and “obnoxious” images of its leaders. The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC)  ordered the country’s international Internet gateway providers to unblock the site after the US-based company agreed to remove the offending images and content.

“The Facebook is now open,” BTRC vice chairman Hasan Mahmud  Delwar said.

The move came after Pakistan lifted a similar ban on Facebook last week following a court order.

Islamabad had blocked Facebook, video website YouTube and 1,200 web pages over a row about “blasphemous” content on the Internet.

Bangladesh bannedFacebook on May 29 after officials said cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed posted on the site “hurt the religious sentiments of the country’s Muslim population”. Thousands of people belonging to Muslim groups staged protests over the cartoons which they branded “anti Islamic propaganda”, and demanded the site be banned. Nearly 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s 144 million people are Muslims who regard

depictions of Islam’s prophet as blasphemous.

The BTRC had also said that some links in Facebook contained “obnoxious” images

of the country’s leaders including the prime  minister and that the site would be reopened after the pages had  been blocked. The country’s anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion arrested one man over the images of the political leaders.

Bangladesh’s telecoms authority contacted Facebook and said the US-based site had

agreed to act. “We are satisfied with the removal of offensive items by the Facebook team. And now it’s again open for all,” BTRC chairman Zia Ahmed told the The Daily Star, adding that Bangladesh would “strongly monitor the postings on the site”. There was no comment from Facebook, but The Daily Star quoted a letter of the website’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan to the  BTRC saying his company would “promote safe use of Facebook in Bangladesh”. Facebook would “work through and establish detailed processes for removing troubling content in the future”, Sullivan was quoted  as saying in the letter. Bangladesh has nearly one million Facebook account holders – a sixth of all Internet users, according to the BTRC. The ban triggered counter protests by students in the country’s major universities, intellectuals and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Last year Bangladesh also blocked YouTube for several days after  the video site hosted a recording of an angry dispute between Prime  Minister Sheikh Hasina and army officers over a deadly military mutiny.

The site has previously attracted government ire over allegations it spreads pornography and fraudulent money making schemes.

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