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How Reddit is becoming a tool for mass protest in Bangladesh

The gruesome collage above is just a small taste of the horrors Bangladeshi students are experiencing. Do you see the middle right panel? That young man’s eyes were gouged out by government agents. His friends wrapped his face in the Bangladeshi flag. What caused such violence? Protests for safe streets after two students were run down by a bus.

What’s going on in Bangladesh? 

This article explains the roots of the violence in Bangladesh. The upshot is this: a bus drove through a group of high school students, killing two. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students took to the streets to protest the utter lack of government compassion or response to this tragedy––caused by a bus that shouldn’t have been on the road and a bus driver who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.

One Bangladeshi redditor, /u/farhadjaman (which appears to be an account set up to help the Bangladeshi students), summarizes the protests like this:

there are doing this with us to stop us from protesting for safe road..we are protesting in the road and checking license of the bus driver,truck driver.who don’t have it we dont let them go.in this 4 day we make dhaka city so clean and traffic jam free.but some political leader have connection with the bus owner.hope you are understanding what i am tryin to say. [Find the whole post here]

/u/farhadjaman is clearly accusing the government of corruption here, and the government reaction seems to justify this point. After all, why gouge out the eyes of a student protestor? Why rape girls? Why open the doors for police to abuse teenagers?

So far, here’s the atrocities we know have happened:

1 boy had his eye gouged out. 15 young students are badly injured. 3 girls of DCC are missing and 4 are spot dead near science lab. A group of BCL are attacking girls at City College. 4 girls has been raped at Jhigatola

Another redditor wrote a thorough explanation:

Two students were ran over by public transport buses racing to pick up passengers.

Since then, high school and college students have been protesting peacefully against dangerous road conditions (No driving and traffic regulations and poor enforcement ). They took it upon themselves to manage traffic (creating emergency lanes; laning according to vehicle size) and checking licenses of every passing vehicle (including police vehicles) on major roads.

In retaliation, the Awami league government run student body (Chatro League) along with police officials have started firing guns, tear gas, stick charges, committing rape against these students. Keep in mind the victims are mostly teenagers between the ages 14-18.

The major broadcast networks have been censoring any related news, and major news portals have also stopped reporting the events. We are currently relying on Facebook to spread images and videos of the situation.

What’s Reddit got to do with it?

Take a look at Alltop’s News page. As of this writing, not one of the major news outlets listed on that page––and they’re all good ones, I picked them myself––has mentioned the Bangladesh student protests and the resulting government atrocities.

If you run a #Bangladesh search on Twitter, you’ll find a lot of information about the protests, but so far (again, as of this writing), Twitter has not had the same kind of impact in Bangladesh as it did during the Arab Spring revolutions in 2010. The real action is happening on Reddit.

Reddit.com/r/WorldNews is currently––as of this writing––spreading the news of the Bangladesh atrocities better than anything else. As of now, one post on /r/WorldNews has over a hundred thousand upvotes and has been guilded a whopping thirty times. The news is on the front page of reddit, which really is the front page of the internet, and exposing millions more people to the news.

Why Reddit? 

Twitter was excellent for real-time coordination amongst protestors during the Arab Spring revolts. That’s because they actually had mobile networks and wifi. In Bangladesh, the government has shut all that down. There is no ways to communicate within country. That’s also not what these students want. They want the world to know what’s happening. Twitter’s character limit isn’t good for that, and the echochambers that form on Twitter––even with hashtags––don’t spread the word fast of enough. As one of the top ten biggest websites in the world, Reddit is the perfect place not only to reach millions of people, but also to inform them in detail. Some of the Bangladeshi students are also asking for outsider help via Reddit.

For all of its problems lately, Reddit is still an excellent platform for things like the Bangladesh student protests. The variety of subreddits make it easy for lots of different people to get involved, while the front page and the massive news subreddits ensure that basically everyone who visits the site will see it––and ensure that no government atrocity will get swept under the rug.

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