Prime Minister's ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy has said the government is committed to peaceful free speech and a free press, but won't allow terrorists to use the internet to spread falsehoods.
"The government of Bangladesh is committed to peaceful free speech and a free press, but will not allow terrorists to use the internet to spread falsehoods or to multiply the effects of horrific actions," Joy wrote in an article published in a Japanese journal on Monday.
The Tokyo-based leading online journal, The Diplomat, ran the article under the headline "Bangladesh Fights Malicious Facebook Postings, Online Hate".
Joy, also the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, wrote the world has come to gravely understand the power of the internet to spread lies and hate, and to radicalize unstable individuals to violence.
"Bangladesh has unfortunately found itself at the frontlines of this new war, but is well-equipped to fight for its citizens' safety and
constitutional protections," he said, adding that the country was committed to rule of law and counter-terrorism domestically and with its allies around the world.
The PM's ICT adviser said fake news has been a recent focus of real news lately as fictional news stories created for the internet clicks and dollars they generate have been identified as a problem both in the United States and elsewhere, including, of all places, Bangladesh.
He said Bangladesh is a constitutional democracy committed to protecting the rights of its citizens. Like in the US, Bangladesh has suffered acts of harassment against religious minorities as militants in Bangladesh have used social media to spread hate by using fake news disseminated on Facebook," he
Joy said after a posting recently appeared on Facebook showing a faked image of a Hindu deity placed inside a building at the center of Islam's holiest mosque in Makkah, Islamist extremists vandalized 15 Hindu temples and 100 homes at Nasirnagar in northeast of Dhaka.
"It didn't matter to radicals that the image was clearly, and poorly,
photoshopped. The image was used as a pretext for extremist elements to vent their hatred against the Hindus," Joy wrote, adding that the government took swift action to protect its citizens.
"Based on video from the crime scenes, he said, nearly 80 people were arrested for their roles in the crimes. Charges have been filed against multiple individuals. The government announced these cases would be handled by its Speedy Trial Tribunal to make sure that victims received justice quickly," he wrote.
Joy said simultaneously the government worked to try to prevent these kinds of attacks in the future and as part of actions two police officers was disciplined for their failure to contain the attacks, extra police and members of elite Rapid Action Battalion and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh forces were deployed to protect Hindus in the area.
He wrote high-level government officials visited the sites of the
desecrations and attacks to console and assure residents that the government would prosecute the vandals and protect its citizens, regardless of their religion.
"In addition, the government blocked 35 websites that spread hate and foment violence," he said. The PM's ICT adviser wrote nations worldwide have seen the force-multiplier effect of hate spread over the Internet.
Extremists in France, Belgium, the U.S. and Bangladesh have been remotely radicalized by inflammatory words and images spread over the Internet.
Joy said during the attack and siege in July at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, militants used customers' phones to post images of the attack to the Internet after telling staff to turn on the restaurant's wireless network.
In response to the Dhaka cafe attack, he said, the government rescued 13 hostages and ended the siege.
Since then, he said, many suspects have been arrested and indicted.
Recently, Joy wrote, government prosecutors charged the leader of a
notorious local militant group and nine others for their roles in the attack.
Trials will start in early January.
"While the government of Bangladesh is cracking down on those who use the power of the internet for evil, it is also using the reach and immediacy of the internet to do good," the article read.
He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - whose father, the founder of modern Bangladesh, was killed in an act of terror - drafted the nation's zero-tolerance policy on terrorism.
"She (Sheikh Hasina) has been using the internet to videoconference with people at all levels of Bangladesh's 64 administrative regions to create nationwide awareness of militancy and a mass push against terror," Joy wrote.
He said the government has also held drills to practice interrupting Internet service around an extremist attack or hostage situation to prevent militants from posting video, images and other real-time content to the Internet.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)