Saturday, November 17, 2018

BTRC to close 'harmful offers' after HC order to halt night-time data packs over Blue Whale

  • Senior Correspondent
    Published: 2017-10-17 23:15:32 BdST


Bangladesh's telecoms regulators say it will implement a court order for shutting down night-time mobile internet packages over concerns for online suicide game Blue Whale after "identifying ones that cause harm".

"We will check to find the ones that are harmful. We'll close it if it's harmful," said Shahjahan Mahmood, Chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission or BTRC, on Tuesday.

Mobile operators used to offer more of such packages but steps by BTRC have reduced their numbers, he said. The time between midnight to dawn is vital for internet providers.

"Random closing down of all night packages may harm their business. So we'll review the packages as per the High Court's order and close ones that prove harmful."

The High Court on Monday ordered three instructions for preventing the spread of Blue Whale, following a preliminary writ petition filed by three lawyers and a man who said his daughter died by suicide after playing the game.

The judges ordered that night-time internet packages be shut down for six months alongside gateways for accessing Blue Whale and other suicide games.

The game that targets depressed youth have claimed lives across the globe, but so far has not been officially linked to suicides in Bangladesh.

Blue Whale engages participants over a 50-day period with tasks that become increasingly harmful. Assigning personal curators for players, it finally challenges them to take their own lives.

When asked about the High Court's order over Blue Whale, State Minister for Post and Telecommunication Tarana Halim said the authorities are bound to implement the order.

"We have stopped operators from sending data offers via SMS at nights. I think it is somewhat close to shutting down 'special night-time offers'."

But such measures can never contribute to reducing the risks posed by the game, said TIM Nurul Kabir, Secretary General of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh or AMTOB.

"It is an issue that requires collective awareness. The AMTOB is working to create such awareness."

"But closing the offers will not serve any purpose."

Bangladesh's largest operator Grameenphone in a statement said, "As a law-abiding organisation, we will act in accordance with BTRC directive in this regard.” 

The company offers one night pack of 2GB internet priced Tk 61, according to its website.

Robi, the country's second largest operator, does not have night-time data offers, said Ekram Kabir, Vice President of Communications and Corporate Responsibility.

Banglalink has a night-time offer for using data from midnight to 10am. The company has refused to comment on the matter.