DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities have blocked almost 20,000 websites as part of an anti-pornography "war".
Internet providers in the conservative Muslim-majority nation took down pornography and gambling websites in the past week under orders from the telecommunications regulator.
"I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous war," Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, said.
Popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo — which authorities believe are misused — have also been blocked in the South Asian nation, Jabbar said.
Most of the blocked sites are foreign, but a few local websites and social media platforms have also faced action under the crackdown, he added.
The crackdown was launched after Bangladesh's High Court in November last year asked the government to block pornography websites and publication of obscene materials in electronic forms for six months.
The court acted after a civil society organisation filed a petition stating that a large number of adult websites contain uncensored and obscene content.
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"We are monitoring the local Facebook profiles, YouTube channels and websites also," Jabbar said.
"A few of them were taken down for having obscene content. We advised a few others not to post anything that goes against our social norms."
Bangladesh — a country of 165 million people — has more than 90 million internet users. Porn stars regularly top the list of the most searched names.
Emdadul Hoque, general secretary of the internet service providers association, said they have complied with the order, but many users can still access online porn by using virtual private networks or mirror websites.
"This is a continuous process and it needs regular monitoring. These websites are very well aware of the regulations and they come up with thousands of mirror sites every week," Hoque said.