Say it aloud: "Pause." Bangladesh's Awami League-led government declared a statewide ban on Facebook and other social-networking websites. On December 20th, 2015, the Bangladesh government removed the prohibition. However, many areas of the country remain blocked to these sites.
The government claimed that social networking was preventing the spread of "truth" and that this was contrary to Islam. It also said that Facebook was used by terrorists to communicate. Critics say the ban is aimed at silencing political opposition.
Facebook has more than 40 million active users in Bangladesh. The company does not censor content but relies on local laws to regulate what can be posted on its site. In 2005, for example, it removed an Israeli map that identified Palestinian cities that had been targeted for destruction by Israel. In 2014, it took down a photo of David Lynch's face covered in blood after the director criticized Bangladesh's film censorship board for banning his new movie.
In August 2015, police arrested two people for allegedly posting material on Facebook that was critical of the government's decision to withdraw currency from the Bangladeshi Taka (BDT).
Bangladesh has one of the fastest-growing Internet populations in the world, but only 5% of households have a computer. Only about 15% of those computers are connected to the web.
Say it out loud: Pause Facebook and its messaging app have been unavailable in Bangladesh since Friday, according to the US internet giant, as demonstrators reject Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit. "We are aware that our services in Bangladesh have been blocked," Facebook stated in a statement. "This is a violation of Bangladesh's citizens' rights and we are looking into the matter." The company added that it does not comment on local issues.
Facebook has been used by activists to spread news about current events, such as the violent protests that have rocked several cities across Bangladesh in response to an attack on a religious minority group that left at least 19 people dead. The killings occurred last week when members of the minority Hindu community attacked buses carrying Muslims for prayer, killing both men and women. Police say the attackers also burned houses of those they deemed to be Muslim.
The slaughter came just weeks after another series of attacks killed 40 people and injured more than 200 others. Those attacks were carried out by militants on the Myanmar border with Bangladesh. They targeted Muslims who lived near some of India's most popular tourist sites including Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). The gunmen apparently wanted to force India's government to withdraw security forces from neighboring Myanmar - a country with close ties to Bangladesh. However, New Delhi refused to back down, saying it would continue to provide security along the border.
Facebook's social networking site and its instant messaging program, Facebook Messenger, have been inaccessible to users in Bangladesh. However, the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) stated that access to the sites has not been stopped. "It's a technological issue," said Subrata Roy Maitra, the company's Vice Chairman, to the Dhaka Tribune. He went on to say that the problem will be resolved within 24 hours.
Facebook is popular around the world, but certain countries or regions are excluded from its services for various reasons. In some cases, this is due to local laws or restrictions, while in others it's because the company receives many complaints from users who are experiencing connection issues.
In February 2015, Facebook was unavailable in Egypt for about one day during protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. And in July of the same year, Facebook was inaccessible in Myanmar (also known as Burma) for several days during the violent crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. The social network returned soon after, but these incidents showed that even in developing countries with less-than-perfect internet systems, Facebook can't be safely used without affecting the situation on the ground.
Bangladesh is a country where people use Facebook en masse. As of January 2016, almost every Bangladeshi aged 13 years old or older uses the site. But what happens when the site breaks down? That's what has been happening in Bangladesh recently.