Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology has recently dismissed a parliamentary standing committee's recommendation for closing down TikTok in the country.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs sent a proposal to the ministry on August 16, requesting it to shut down the video-sharing platform at the quickest possible time for what they claimed was the platform's use in "spreading misinformation and hate speech".
Later in a meeting on August 25, the JS body discussed the proposal.
We have to educate youths about using these apps in a better way by addressing and removing the negative aspects. If we shut down the app, there will always be another alternation.
Brig Gen Ziaul Ahsan, director general of National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC), informed the meeting that young internet users spend 80 percent of their screen time on TikTok, according to the working paper of the meeting.
The app is being used for negative purposes like spreading false information, hate speech, and taking out a personal vendetta, said the DG.
He also mentioned that all information relating to the misuse of the app has been sent to BTRC, along with the request to shut it down.
The parliamentary watchdog then asked the home ministry to take necessary steps corresponding with the ministries concerned, said the working paper.
However, the ministry has turned down the request.
What we need is a specific regulation policy to monitor and operate such apps.
Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the request was turned down following instructions from the ICT advisor to the prime minister.
"The advisor instructed us not to shut down the platform," Jabbar told The Daily Star.
"If any negative or harmful content is found in TikTok, we report it to the app authority to remove it from the platform," he added.
Meanwhile, law enforcers believe TikTok is used as a preferred tool for criminals to carry out different types of crimes.
Citing examples, they said they identified a syndicate that targets teenage or school-going girls on TikTok and befriends them.
The girls are then lured in with promises of TikTok stardom and invited to meet-ups. Once they agree and come over, they fall victim to sexual harassment. There are rape victims among them as well. On multiple occasions, the crimes were recorded on camera by the perpetrators, they added.
At least 30 people were arrested in less than a year on charges of rape, extortion, burglary, and human trafficking using the platform, according to the police database.
The database showed that at least 20 arrestees were involved in trafficking syndicates who lured young girls on TikTok.
IT experts, however, believe shutting down an application is not the solution to such crimes.
We work closely with the government to reinforce the safety of our platform users, where our Bangladeshi community can inspire creativity and spread joy.
"Steps can be taken to remove the harmful contents, but not the app," Tanvir Hassan Zoha, an IT expert, told The Daily Star.
"We have no recreation centres and playgrounds for our younger citizens to spend their free time healthily. Social media is all they are left with as sources of recreation and entertainment."
"We have to educate them about using these apps in a better way by addressing and removing the negative aspects. If we shut down the app, there will always be another alternative," he added.
Echoing Tanvir, Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed, an advocate at the Supreme Court, said, "We need a specific regulation policy to monitor and operate such apps."
Police officials dealing with cybercrimes suggested taking steps to have a legal agreement with the app authorities so that they can be held liable for some specific issues.
"We often report to the authorities of these apps if any content needs to be removed. But they respond as per their standards as we do not have any legal agreement with them," Tareq Bin Rashid, deputy commissioner of Cyber and special Crime, told The Daily Star.
Contacted, a TikTok spokesperson, requesting anonymity, said Bangladesh is a priority market for TikTok and they are exploring ways of growing their community in the country.
"We work closely with the government to reinforce the safety of our platform users, where our Bangladeshi community can inspire creativity and spread joy," the spokesperson added.