June 16, 2021, 11:26 pm

Staff Correspondent

2021-06-10 06:50:00 BdST

RAB looks to ban TikTok, Likee, PUBG, Free Fire

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is set to submit a proposal to the government soon with a view to banning the use of TikTok, Likee, PUBG and Free Fire apps in Bangladesh, citing their adverse effects on youths and the opportunity they provide for criminal activities to be engaged in.

“In a meeting, our director general discussed the submission of a proposal to the government to ban the four apps and I hope it will be approved soon,” said RAB spokesperson Commander Khandaker Al Moin.

However, just banning the apps would not prevent crimes if parents did not intervene, he cautioned.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) would have the final say on the issue, the RAB official said.

Meanwhile, BTRC Deputy Director (media) Zakir Hossain Khan said: “We will take necessary measures for the greater good of the country if we do receive a proposal or directive [to ban the four apps], despite our firm belief in freedom of expression.”

TikTok controversy

It may be recalled that the law enforcement agency recently arrested the mastermind behind a human trafficking racket, run through TikTok, who had trafficked more than 500 young girls to India. On the other hand, Hridoy Babu alias TikTok Hridoy, who is now in the custody of Indian police over a recent assault incident, had trafficked some 50 girls with the gang’s help.

The ring lured young girls over the app by promising well-paid jobs across the border and, later on, sold them as sex workers in India.

The TikTok issue became the talk of the town after the video of a 22-year-old Bangladeshi girl being tortured by her compatriots in Bengaluru went viral on social media in late May, prompting the law enforcement agencies to arrest several members of the human trafficking gang.

TikTok ban

The Chinese video-sharing social networking service TikTok has been banned in a number of countries, including Indonesia, India and Pakistan, for varying periods.

Indonesia had temporarily banned TikTok in July 2018 after the government accused it of promulgating "pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy”.

The ban was lifted eight days later after the social media service had pledged to task 20 staffers with censoring content in the country.

The service had been banned in Pakistan for a while as well. The order was later reversed after TikTok pledged that they would remove objectionable contents.

Meanwhile, in neighboring India, TikTok has remained banned since June 29, 2020.

This is not Bangladesh’s first brush with the social media giant either. In November 2018, the Bangladesh government blocked internet access to TikTok, and in August 2020, the authorities requested the service to remove 10 videos that were uploaded from the country.

In December last year, a Supreme Court lawyer filed a writ petition with the High Court seeking a ban on platforms like TikTok, Likee and Bigo Live, stating that the apps were leading the young generation astray.

BTRC Vice Chairman Subrata Roy Mitra said: “TikTok has remained blocked in India since 2020 as far as I am aware, and if our government directs us to ban the app, we will do it as well.”

Another expert, BTRC Deputy Director (engineering and operations) Dr Shamsuzzoha, stated that the authorities were capable of completely blocking the use of the app.

“Some may still try to access TikTok by using a VPN service, but we can take countermeasures to negate that as well if the government wants,” he stated.

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