WhatsApp, mypeople, Line also blocked
The government today blocked three more online voice and messaging services – WhatsApp, mypeople and Line .
It also extended the bar on Viber and Tango till January 21 midnight, a Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) official said.
Zahir Ahmed, managing director of BDLink, an International Terrestrial Cable (ITC) and an Internet Gateway, told The Daily Star he received a letter from the telecom regulator BTRC today to block the new three applications.
BTRC extended previously blocked applications Viber and Tango till Jan 21.
The country’s largest mobile phone operator Grameenphone today said, “Grameenphone and other mobile operators received written directive from the BTRC to restrict access to the messaging services WhatsApp, LINE and My People with immediate effect.”
At the same time, the BTRC instructed Grameenphone and other operators to extend a previous restriction on messaging services Viber and Tango until 11.59pm on January 21.
“Due to limitations in technology, GP can only enforce partial restriction on IP-based messaging services. However, customers may experience disruptions on the aforementioned services in the next few days. Grameenphone believes in open communication and sincerely regret any inconvenience caused to our valued customers in this regard.”
Md Sarwar Alam, secretary and spokesperson for BTRC, yesterday said the law enforcement and intelligence agencies asked the regulator to take this step.
The government has specific information that subversive activities, including bomb and arson attacks, were being carried out with directives issued by the BNP high-command using Viber and Tango, claimed a police official concerned.
Intelligence agencies have recommended that the government block the popular services temporarily based on proof, the official added.
“We have information that those who had been issuing directives through mobile phones to carry out subversive activities had stopped using their phones and were using Viber and Tango instead,” the policeman said, adding, “We have had proofs of such instructions for carrying out subversive activities in the last two to three days.”
The blocking of the services might go on.
State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Viber and Tango had been blocked based on an intelligence report. "Now criminals and militants interact using these [Viber and Tango] that cannot be monitored widely by our intelligence agencies," he told The Daily Star.
He declined to elaborate on the intelligence report.
A leader of the BNP told the BBC they used to communicate through Viber but are now facing problems as the service has been blocked.
The intelligence agencies can locate any caller when a regular call is made from a mobile phone but they cannot get the location when the caller is using Viber or Tango, claimed an official of the telecom regulator.
A notice circulated by the country's largest mobile phone operator Grameenphone said, “Grameenphone and the other mobile operations in Bangladesh received a written as well as verbal request from Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to temporarily restrict access to the messaging service Viber and Tango, citing security reasons.”
Zahir Ahmed, managing director of BanglaTel, an international terrestrial cable company, told The Daily Star that they had disabled both the services in the wee hours of yesterday and the services would resume only after instructions from the telecom regulator.
Since yesterday, users of Viber who depend on the service to communicate with family and loved ones at home and abroad started having problems making calls and sending messages.
A Viber user wishing anonymity told The Daily Star, “I wanted to wish my sister who lives abroad a happy birthday but the call never went through.”