Sri Lanka attacks: The ban on social media | Eurasia Diary -

21 May, Tuesday

Sri Lanka attacks: The ban on social media

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Shortly after the bombings in Sri Lanka, and the spread of inaccurate stories began, the government took the drastic decision to block social media.

To stop the spread of "false news reports", Facebook, Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Viber were all banned.

The government has not said when the ban will be lifted.

But it comes at a time when social media firms are battling to rein in the spread of misinformation.

After more than 300 people died in a series of bombings at churches and hotels on Sunday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe asked the population to "please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation".

That plea was followed up with an outright ban on a series of social media sites. The government said the block would be temporary, but remain in place "until investigations were concluded".

The shutdown does not appear to affect Twitter, which is not as widely used in the country as other platforms, according to some experts.

The shutdown is not without precedent. Facebook was briefly blocked a year ago in Sri Lanka, after it was accused of allowing posts that incited anti-Muslim violence.

It is perhaps not surprising that the Sri Lankan government has taken such extreme measures given that the social network Facebook admitted in November that its service had been used to spread violence in Myanmar.

Then in March, it had to race to stop footage from the attacks on mosques in New Zealand being shared.

The killings were live-streamed on Facebook and the video was shared countless times on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with social media firms playing a frantic game of whack-a-mole to try to contain the spread.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not block social media but made no secret of the fact that she held them responsible for the viral spreading of unacceptable content and threatened far stricter regulation.


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