The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) took a dramatic step on Monday, blocking over 2200 gambling websites as well as over 15,000 adult websites. The crackdown also included the shutting down of two popular video sharing apps for smartphones – Tik Tok and Bigo.
Last Thursday, it was announced that 176 such gambling websites had been blocked in Bangladesh. There were 1279 pornographic websites blocked within the country as well, however, that number grew exponentially over the weekend.
Purity and retaliation
According to a post published on Facebook by Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar, the move was created to provide a safer space on the Internet that was free of “indecent content.” The minister explained that the use of the Internet was supposed to be for the “benefit” of young people, and that adult and gambling websites were found to be in violation.
Since February 7, 4500 pornographic websites have been closed at the direction of the ministry. Not only were 2235 gambling sites barred from view in Bangladesh, but the BTRC also ordered the closure of 176 gambling sites on Sunday.
The blocking of the apps appears to be purely for political reasons. Following the national elections, two users of the game Tik Tok mocked what they called “anomalies” in the election results. This clearly appears to be a move to silence dissent surrounding the elections that were held on December 30 of last year.
The election was marred by numerous instances of violence, and there were multiple claims of voter rigging. Kamal Hossain, the opposition leader who lost the election, demanded that new elections be held, and many of his followers have taken to apps such as Tik Tok to voice their dissent.
This is not the first time that the BTRC has opted to block such websites. Three weeks before the election 47 websites were blocked, followed by 54 being banned within Bangladesh the next day. This brought the total list to 101, which included popular websites like dhakatimes.com and priyo.com.
Many of these websites came back online days later, as 58 sites were unblocked. Most of the sites that were blocked were directly related to news, so it was a surprising move that the government opted to turn to pornography and gambling websites in their most recent crackdown.
All Internet use is completely controlled by the International Internet Gateway. This agency has the authority to block any website they or the BTRC deems offensive or unacceptable for public viewing. While many of the websites were restored in December, it’s doubtful that any of the gambling sites will be unblocked.