BTRC does not have the technical resources to ban the apps
A ban on social media apps such as Likee and TikTok will not be an effective solution to prevent human trafficking, speakers at a webinar have said.
Instead of banning the apps, the government should focus on raising awareness among parents and young girls so that everyone uses social media responsibly, they have suggested.
The webinar, “Misuse of information and communication technology: What to do to prevent trafficking of women and girls,” was arranged by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) on Saturday.
Addressing the webinar, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Vice Chairman Subrata Kumar Maitra said there was no alternative to raising awareness about human trafficking and the dangers of social media among women and young girls.
“BTRC does not have the technical resources to ban these kinds of apps in Bangladesh. We report to the main offices of the companies if we find anything inappropriate on social media platforms, and they take it down if they think the content is harmful,” he added
MJF Senior Coordinator Shahana Huda Ranjana said it would be easy for users of the apps to find a way around a ban, such as by using a virtual private network (VPN).
“There is no point in banning these apps. Raising awareness among parents, children and young girls should be the primary means to prevent human trafficking,” she added.
MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said students were obliged to use smartphones as the pandemic had forced them to take online classes and assignments.
“We get reports from parents that they cannot limit screen time for their children as they have to be on electric devices like smartphones or computers for school. It is not always possible to monitor what they are doing online,” she said, stressing the importance of a raising of awareness.
She also said human trafficking rackets must not believe that they were stronger than the state.
“These criminal gangs are being emboldened because they are not seeing any traffickers get exemplary punishment, and this is leading to an increase in human trafficking,” she said.
Umme Wara, assistant professor at the department of criminology of Dhaka University (DU), said young women were often seduced by ideas of social media fame as they were discriminated against and denied a voice in society.
“When [young women] see that they can be stars and get some sort of agency and voice through these social media platforms, they fall into the trap,” she said.
She added that women from the low-income sectors of society now had access to these apps, and they needed to be taught about the associated dangers.
Salma Ali, human rights activist and president of the Bangladesh National Women's Lawyers Association (BNWLA), said survivors of human trafficking by social media gangs were often more interested in recovering money that they were scammed out of than in fighting legal battles
“This is the reason why many cases do not even make it into the legal system,” she said.