The government agencies will soon start monitoring social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, round-the-clock to check any smear campaign ahead of the December 30 parliamentary election.
The Election Commission made the decision yesterday during a meeting with Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and mobile operators.
Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed disclosed the matter while talking to reporters after the meeting at the Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital's Agargaon.
“They [different government agencies] assured us of monitoring social media sites after we asked them to do so for preventing propaganda. BTRC, NTMC [National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre] and cyber crimes unit will keep a watch on the social media sites 24 hours a day,” he said.
The EC secretary said the move was aimed at checking smear campaigns that can foil the election. “Anyone involved in such acts would face legal actions.”
Asked, he said they could not shut down Facebook and Twitter but could check them.
Meeting sources said an EC official, during the meeting, informed the others that they have noticed the spread of propaganda on social media platforms ahead of the polls. The official then said necessary actions were needed to stop the misuse of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Later, the decision to monitor the sites was taken.
At the meeting, EC officials also sought uninterrupted mobile network support for all, including all returning and assistant returning offices, during election time.
“We sought assistance from mobile service providers for ceaseless mobile and internet service at the EC secretariat and district and upazila levels,” Helal said.
Replying to a query, he said election campaign being carried out by some parliamentary aspirants on the social media did not fall under the purview of the electoral rules.
A top EC official who attended the meeting said different organisations were purchasing equipment to strengthen social media monitoring.
In a letter on November 15, the BTRC had asked all mobile operators, internet service providers, International Internet Gateway, Broadband Wireless Access, National Telecom Transmission Network, Public Switched Telephone Network and National Internet Exchange, to help set up equipment of the NTMC.
The BTRC had also asked the operators to assist NTMC as the latter was setting up equipment for the “sake of security of state and public safety”.
The NTMC would also engage with mobile operators over the issue which would help monitor Facebook and YouTube, said top officials of other mobile operators.
“As Facebook and YouTube are the two most popular social media sites in the country, the authority designed their monitoring system to keep a watch on the platforms,” said a senior official of a top mobile operator.
Meanwhile, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which falls under the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Communication Technology, took another initiative to monitor social media platforms, said sources.
DoT officials said they were “very close” to installing special equipment and would start the test run soon.
As of September, there are about 9.12 crore active internet connections in the country, according to the BTRC, and about 3.12 crore active Facebook accounts are being used.