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Controlling the Internet: The new form of censorship

In Bangladesh, the government shut down the internet to try to undermine student protests: which Latin American countries have taken the same measures?

Controlling the Internet: The new form of censorship

Since July 29, thousands of students in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, have come out to protest the death of two of their classmates. Abdul Karim Rajib, 18 years old, and Khanam Mim, 17 years old, were hit by public service buses when they raced to see who could pick up more passengers. Given that, the government is considering giving them a life sentence. It seemed that the unfortunate accident was the drop that filled the glass, because according to Global Voices, "every year, around 12,000 people lose their lives in road accidents in Bangladesh." It should be noted that the traffic laws in that country are known to be easy to infringe and for their lack of control.

Leer en español: Controlar el Internet: La nueva forma de censura

The social network WhatsApp was the source to share images and videos of what was happening on the streets, because the government of Bangladesh asked journalists not to ask questions of what happened to the police. However, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission decreed that, for 24 hours, the speed of the internet would decrease to prevent the passage of multimedia files through social networks. "The telecommunications regulator has ordered us to slow down for the next 24 hours and then it will evaluate the situation and give us new directives," said an executive who requested anonymity to The Daily Star newspaper.

The measure implemented by the government was used to try to stop the massive transfer of photographs and videos. Faced with this, the people who were reporting the facts live, were stopped by the police. Such is the case of photographer and activist Shahidul Alam, who reported and analyzed what was happening through his Facebook and Twitter accounts. On August 5, he was arrested by the authorities, and, although the real reason for which he was detained was not known, the police accused him before the Bangladesh Information and Communication Technology Act of 2013. This act it is used to restrict press freedom and expression to journalists and online activists.

Another measure to control the internet in Venezuela

Bangladesh is not the first country to resort to restricting the internet to try to mitigate protests or criticism of governments. In the Venezuelan case, the Internet restriction seems to be more evident in independent media like the Pitazo, according to Global Voices, "The site is no longer accessible from the main networks of Internet service providers in Venezuela, and its owners did not receive any notification of the blockage of telecommunications regulators. On previous occasions, the site created numerous alternative domains, but all were blocked as well."

In addition to the Pitazo web portal, media such as Patilla, El Nacional, Tal Cual, and RunRunes, have also been harmed by the control and filters that the government carries out. Against this the Venezuelan lawyer Jesus Ollarves Irazábal wrote for Patilla that "these filtering or blocking measures must be designed and implemented in such a way that they impact, exclusively, the content considered illegitimate, without affecting other contents; otherwise, they constitute an illegitimate restriction on freedom of expression." In addition to what Ollarves described, the speed of the Internet could contribute to the problem as Venezuela is in the last position of Latin American countries with fixed broadband speed with a speed of 3.53 Mbp, as reported by Infobae.

On the other hand, the Internet browser Tor was blocked by the Venezuelan government. Tor is known "for being one of the navigators used to bypass state Internet blockades in countries with authoritarian regimes", according to information from El Mundo. Venezuelans often use this browser to access pages that have been blocked in the country.

The case of Nicaragua

In March of this year, the Sandinista National Assembly proposed a series of reforms to control the information circulating in networks. According to La Prensa, it was intended that the media do "not publish complaints that users make on social networks, when these reports contradict the family and security model of the country conceptualized by the government."

Although the measure was not very receptive, with the April protests against pension reforms, social networks were the solution to the censorship that the media in that country have. For the former Nicaraguan ambassador in Colombia, Edgar Genie, in an interview with El Mundo, "social networks have played an important role and have made people aware. They are so effective that a march is called here and in two, three hours, the streets are filled with people."

Faced with this, blogger Cristhian Alvarenga wrote for Onda Local that Laws, such as the one proposed by Ortega, affects the freedom of expression and information on the Internet, by allowing government censorship and by concessionaires, limits the neutrality of the network, enables the authorities order blocking of telecommunications services in certain areas with vague assumptions such as "critical places for public safety".

LatinAmerican Post | Laura Viviana Guevara Muñoz

Translated from "Controlar el Internet: La nueva forma de censura"