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Sri Lanka attacks: Is the social media ban blocking citizens from the truth?

21 9 0

SRI LANKA has temporarily banned social media and messaging apps in the wake of the coordinated Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels across the country, which killed at least 290 people.

The ban is ostensibly to stop the spread of misinformation – and the move feeds into the wider debate about how Facebook and other platforms are used to incite violence and spread hate speech.

In Burma (Myanmar), for example, Facebook was heavily criticised for allowing groups to use its pages to incite violence against the Rohingya community. In New Zealand, it came under fire after it was used to live-stream the Christchurch massacre.

SEE ALSO: Sri Lanka is no stranger to extremist violence, but the latest attacks seem different

But in Sri Lanka, as in many other countries, Facebook and social media platforms generally have created a positive space for public conversation that did not exist before.

The country has a long history of censoring the press, by killing journalists, blocking websites and using draconian laws to fine and imprison reporters. The media that remained was divided by language and geography – there were no outlets used and trusted equally by the Sinhala-speaking majority in the south and west of the country and the Tamil speaking minority in the north and east.

A soldier stands guard on a street in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. Source: Jewel SAMAD / AFP

Social media, therefore, became a way to share stories and comment on current affairs. This hasn’t always been........

© Asian Correspondent