Digital Security Act 2018 and the draft Cyber Security Act 2023 : A Comparative Analysis

Published: 30 August 2023

Since its inception, the Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA) of Bangladesh has faced extensive criticism for being used as a tool against freedom of expression, media freedom, human rights, and dissension. On the other hand, it has been equally criticised for failing to ensure effective online safety, security of the digital system and protection of personal data and fundamental rights. The DSA’s vague definitions of crimes and wide scopes of interpretation were used and abused for targeted criminalisation of free speech that not only caused immense suffering to the victims but also created an atmosphere of intimidation, self-censorship, and a sense of insecurity among people at large and media and civil society in particular. The decision to replace the DSA with a new draft Cyber Security Act (draft CSA) is an example of the Government’s recognition that it was a black law that failed to find the right balance between digital security and civil liberties and compromised the latter in the name of the former.

Against this backdrop the government has drafted a new Cyber Security Act 2023 which has been approved by the Cabinet on 28 August 2023. However, a comparative analysis of the DSA 2018 and the draft CSA 2023 conducted by TIB reveals that the draft CSA is essentially a renamed version of the DSA, with only a few alterations in the form of reduced severity of punishments. In substance, the draft CSA contains all the provisions from the DSA that compromise freedom of speech, dissent, thought and conscience, freedom of the press, and independent journalism.