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Bangladesh lifts Facebook ban but continues blocking other apps

The government of Bangladesh has unblocked access to Facebook without lifting similar restrictions on other messaging services such as Line, Viber and WhatsApp.

Tarana Halim, the minister for Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, has instructed regulator BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission) to repeal the recently-imposed ban – but only for Facebook.

Halim noted: “we were told by the authorities to remove access-restrictions on Facebook, as the terror threat has declined. We are yet to get instructions to unblock sites like Viber and WhatsApp.”

The ban was imposed by the BTRC on November 18th following the Bangladeshi High Court’s decision to uphold the death sentence of 2 men convicted of war crimes committed in 1971, while the country has fighting for independence from Pakistan.

At the start of November, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina confirmed that internet-based messaging and voice-call services could be subject to temporary suspensions if required as part of a counter-terrorism operation. She noted that “some people are carrying out criminal activities by misusing these services. Therefore, I will suspend operation of these apps for some days, when needed.”

Bangladeshi operator Robi Axiata recently stated that the ban would reduce its revenue by around 3%, as it was responsible for a 30% drop in data usage.

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