BTRC blocks WhatsApp, extends block on Viber, Tango

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The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission blocked popular internet-based messaging application WhatsApp on Monday for ‘security reasons’ after blocking Viber and Tango the day before on the same ground. BTRC secretary Sarwar Alam confirmed to New Age the decision. ‘The block on the applications was extended to 21 January,’ he told New Age over phone. Officials of the mobile phone companies said the BTRC also directed them to stop internet-based massaging service like Mypeople and Line. BTRC officials said the instruction was sent to mobile phone operators and International Gateway operators via email asking them to stop the services until 11.59pm of January 21. The BTRC on Sunday blocked mobile messaging and internet calling application Viber and Tango. BTRC officials said as the government did not have any technology to track or intercept communication through such applications it decided to block them completely. ‘We have blocked the services following orders from an intelligence agency and the home ministry,’ a senior BTRC official told New Age. He said the move was taken to neutralise opposition activists as they allegedly use such services so that law enforcing agencies cannot monitor their communication. ‘As the opposition alliance is engaging in terrorist activities to enforce the blockade the government is trying to limit their means of communication,’ he said. In September 2012, the BTRC blocked video sharing site YouTube in Bangladesh for 260 days following worldwide protests at a 14-minute trailer of a film titled ‘Innocence of Muslims’ which mocks Islam and its Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). The BTRC, however, in November last year failed to block some Facebook pages, which was leaking questions of public examinations, despite request from the primary education directorate. The BTRC also asked mobile phone operators to stop Blackberry service in the county because the government cannot monitor those calls. The provincial government of Sindh, Pakistan blocked messaging apps Skype, Viber and WhatsApp for three months, citing security issues, in October 2013,. In June 2013, Saudi Arabia blocked Viber as the government failed to monitor the data traffic through the application.

Source: New Age