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Facebook back in Bangladesh

Excises 'blasphemous' page and anti-gov pics

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Facebook is back in Bangladesh after blocking access to pages depicting the prophet Mohammed and apologising to country's telecoms authorities.

The site also excised what Bangladeshi authorities described as "obnoxious" images of the country's government and opposition leaders.

The social networking site was locked out of the 150 million-strong mainly Muslim Bangladesh after a storm over the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" group. Depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous by Muslims.

Bangladesh swiftly followed regional neighbour Pakistan's response to the page, and threw up digital barricades against the social networking site.

After the best part of a week, access was restored on Saturday once Facebook removed the offending page and apologised. It also begged forgiveness for what the Bangladeshi authorities described as the "obnoxious" images of the country's political leaders.

While Facebook can make the case that it was responding to widespread sentiment on the issue of the Mohammed pictures, it will be interesting to see how it spins caving in on the issue of anti-government caricatures.

India's Daily News and Analysis site reported that a Bangladeshi youth was quickly arrested for the "obnoxious" images, and held for a court-ordered "interrogation".

According to one report, Facebook CSO Joe Sullivan told the authorities: “I look forward to learning more about your local standards and working together to promote safe use of Facebook in Bangladesh."

One way of using Facebook safely might be to refrain from criticising political leaders.

The authorities will continue to "monitor" Facebook for offensive content. Surely another ban or spate of blocking is just a matter of time. ®

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