Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
    Volume 9 Issue 23| June 4, 2010|

 Cover Story
 Writing the Wrong
 A Roman Column
 Book Review
 Star Diary

   SWM Home


While Surfing Online

Elita Karim

As I sit in front of my computer, I automatically log on to my Gmail account, my Twitter account and log on to my Facebook homepage. I can't help holding back a smile as I read about yet another revolutionary act on the part of the government, to eliminate evil from the face of this earth -- banning Facebook, or 'temporarily blocking access to Facebook.'

It's funny how I browse through all the different news stories online about how and why Facebook was 'temporarily blocked' in Bangladesh, following the uploading of offensive images by a random 30-year-old man in Dhaka, while confirming and rejecting friends on Facebook, updating my status, liking friends' photos and commenting on the different notes written by my Facebook friends.

I believe the policy makers out there have not heard about proxy servers and / or sites, which are being used all over the country by the users of the internet and thus successfully logging on to their Facebook accounts. Clearly, the young people in this country have been way more 'digital' for years together, even before the government had decided to create a 'Digital Bangladesh' when they came to power, a little more than a year ago.

Facebook was banned in Pakistan a while ago when caricatures and drawings of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) were uploaded on the social networking site, which led to an outburst amongst some in Bangladesh, including Islamic political parties, namely, the Islami Oikya Jote, Islami Andolan and Khelafat Andolan. The ban was slapped in Bangladesh for a slightly different reason though -- uploading 'offensive' images of the government high ups and making 'derogatory' comments about them on Facebook. As this piece is being written, news comes in of the Facebook ban being lifted in Pakistan. Like many other Facebook users, I too am confident that the ban on the social networking site will be lifted in Bangladesh by the end of this week.

The government seems to be on a 'banning spree', blocking anything and everything that, according to them, might infiltrate our culture and possibly influence the minds of the people to work against their country and religion. However, this is an idea many youngsters would disagree with. For instance, as I write this piece, young Television actor Iresh Zaker updates his Facebook status, roughly summarising his reaction to the blocking of Facebook in the country. “Uploading mere drawings and caricatures of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) on Facebook would never move us from our firm belief in our religion. Our belief is too strong for something so trivial to influence us.”

The Bangladesh Telecom and Regulatory Commission (BTRC) had earlier asked Mango Telecom and Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited, the two international Internet gateways, to find a way to block 'anti-social' contents posted by Facebook users. The arrest of 30-year-old Mahbub Alam Rodin by the Rapid Action Battalion in Dhaka, for uploading disturbing images of the country leaders on Facebook, would probably give him a good scare and many others like him, but unfortunately for the government high-ups, it would be difficult to eliminate such online activities by banning one of the most popular social networking sites in the cyber world.

Even though Facebook is considered by many to be a tool mainly used by youngsters, the social networking site is actually used extensively by people especially working in the media. Many share video clips, photographs, documents and notes, which contain professional and creative contents, also shared with media counterparts living abroad. Kaushik Shankar Das, journalist and filmmaker in Bangladesh, residing in Dhaka, says that it was an insane decision for the government to suddenly block Facebook. “For many of us, it has been a shock since we have a lot of work on Facebook that we share with our fellow colleagues.”

Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites online, which is an effective tool to reach out to millions across the globe. What could be a better platform for us, than this, to show the world that we can fight for our beliefs, showcase our culture and create a stage for dialogue and cultural exchange, instead of a theatre of conflict? Banning Facebook or any social networking site will not stop the small number of people and their activities of uploading objectionable images. But it will definitely slow us down in the human race and push us behind while the rest of the world moves ahead.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2010