BTRC plans nonstop monitoring to curb ‘offensive’ content on the internet

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has formed a special cell to keep under watch “offensive” contents on the internet and and remove it within 24 hours.

Senior CorrespondentShamim Ahamed, bdnews24.com
Published : 9 Sept 2021, 08:28 PM
Updated : 10 Sept 2021, 10:21 AM

Through the newly formed Cyber-Security Cell, the telecom watchdog wants to monitor the anti-government, anti-state and other “objectionable” contents round the clock.

It will also keep tabs on socio-political, pornographic, cultural or religious hate posts and extremist contents 24 hours a day.

Before the formation of the cell, BTRC has been taking action against such contents on requests from law-enforcement, intelligence and other government agencies to have the contents taken down.

BTRC Chairman Shyam Sunder Sikder said the cell had begun working and would start round-the-clock services “very soon”.

He said BTRC would buy new technology to properly equip the cell in future.

Despite the monitoring, removing content from social media will be a difficult job because the companies follow their own policies on these issues. Telecoms Minister Mustafa Jabbar on Monday pointed out the challenges in having content deleted from social media.

A top BTRC official in charge of the new cyber-security cell said 10 officials were currently working and work will be done on a bigger scale in the future. “BTRC will voluntarily take action after seeing any objectionable content.”

The regulator had formed a special team in 2012 to prevent cybercrime. The Bangladesh Computer Security Incidence Response Team was tasked with taking action after identifying content that spread social, political, and religious hatred.

The initiative stalled after some years due to a lack of manpower, especially IZT specialists, the BTRC official said.

The new cell will hire experts from mobile phone and other telecom operators, he said.

“It will take opinions from all stakeholders so that all can work together when something big happens.”

The matter of content removal came under the spotlight again when the High Court on Sunday rapped the BTRC for its “failure” to act on the issue while hearing a writ petition seeking an order to remove private photos and videos from the internet.

A day later, Jabbar said the regulator cannot remove contents from social media, but can only request the firms to remove the posts. The companies then take steps following their own community standard guidelines.

The companies are not obligated to follow Bangladesh’s laws because they are not registered in the country, Jabbar said.

But BTRC can block any website. It prevents Bangladeshi users from seeing pornographic or gambling websites.

The regulator made 18,836 requests to Facebook to block content in the past year. The social media giant blocked 4,888 of these links.

YouTube responded positively to block 62 out of 431 BTRC requests. The regulator also blocked 1,060 website links in this period.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
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