POST TIME: 8 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 7 March, 2019 10:15:56 PM
Facebook nudged to follow Bangladesh laws on content

Facebook nudged to follow Bangladesh laws on content

The government has notified Facebook of the Digital Security Act of Bangladesh by handing over a copy of the Act to the representatives of the popular social media site. “There are laws in Bangladesh and Facebook will have to compile content and other things in accordance with the law,” Posts and Telecommuni-cations and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Independent.

The minister said this to Facebook officials during a meeting at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain last week. Facebook global policy solutions vice-president Richard Allan and South Asian head of policy Ashwani Rana were present at the meeting. Jabbar also urged the Facebook authorities to immediately respond whenever the government asked it to filter any content that contravened local laws and was harmful for the country.

“We also have informed Facebook about our discontent regarding the spreading of rumours through the platform and its delayed response to this,” he said.

Now, over 2.5 crore people in Bangladesh use Facebook. There are 2.2 crore active Facebook users in Dhaka, according to “We Are Social”, registered in England.

The minister also said Facebook would have to pay taxes as per Bangladeshi laws because it generates money through ads in the country. The government has concerns over tax issues and has made it mandatory for top social media platforms like Facebook and Google to pay taxes.

Jabbar said the government was ready to cooperate with Facebook to increase the quality of Bangla translations of the content on the social media platform. During the meeting, the Facebook officials said the social media site published its content in accordance with global standards.

They also assured the minister that Facebook would not avoid the legal framework and culture of Bangladesh. When informed that the Bangladeshi government was working to remove and block pornography sites, Allan said the process of taking away pornography from their system was going on. “It will continue in the future,” he added.

Jabbar asked the Facebook authorities to establish an office in Dhaka for smooth functioning of business. The social media site officials have expressed enthusiasm over the suggestion, he said.

The minister also reminded the Facebook authorities of the country’s laws, cultures, values, rules and regulations and urged them to abide by those while maintaining all contents.

Jabbar said the ICT Division was carrying out various campaigns to make people aware of the justified use of social media. “We’ll intensify this further. We’re also thinking of introducing a module on social media use in various training sessions on ICT,” he added.

He said the Telecommunications Division has taken up a Tk. 100-crore project on cyber security to enhance the government’s capability to check social media abuse through technology. “We’ll monitor social media, check rumours, and then find out their sources,” he added.

 On Sunday, the Bangladesh Bank asked all banks to be strict on the payment procedure and deduct 15 per cent VAT on overseas payments for online purchases and adverts on digital

According to Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Value Added Tax Act, 1991, the Bangladesh government can take 15 per cent while providing services for advertising through various internet services like Facebook and YouTube services.

In a letter to the BB on January 22, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) asked the central bank to take steps to ensure that the banks collect tax from the Bangladeshi advertisers. The central bank on Monday ordered all the banks to follow the NBR directives mentioned in the letter.

Bangladeshis paying royalties or fees to entities such as Facebook and YouTube outside the country for different types of internet services like advertisements must pay 15 per cent VAT, according to the letter.

The decision to impose VAT on online advertisements on social media is going to be taken following pleas from the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) in 2017, although e-commerce sites of the country have been running their businesses for a decade.

Earlier, the NOAB had sent a letter to different ministries, Bangladesh Bank (BB), NBR, and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), saying Facebook and Google have no offices in Bangladesh and remain beyond the purview of the country's law.

The letter mentioned that Facebook and Google are not paying taxes even after earning huge sums of money from digital advertisements in the country.