Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media Following Terrorist Attacks

The government of Sri Lanka, fearing that hate speech and misinformation could provoke more violence following Sunday’s terrorist attacks, blocked several social media networks including Facebook and the messaging service WhatsApp.

The remarkable move reflects growing concern by countries about the capacity of social networks to control the content posted on their platforms.

YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber were also inaccessible, according to internet monitoring groups, such as Netblocks.org.

 
 

 
 

The government said that services will be remain suspended until investigations into the blasts that killed more than 200 people are concluded.

In 2018, following violent outbreaks, Sri Lanka blocked social media for over a week following calls to violence, circulating largely on Facebook, which appeared to provoke a wave of anti-Muslim riots.

Netblocks.org, citing a study tweeted that shutting down social media may have opposite the intended effect.

“Nationwide internet restrictions accelerate the spread of disinformation during a crisis because sources of authentic information are left offline. This allows third parties to exploit the situation for political gain and profit.”

“We know based on the past that in crises, everyone goes online to find information,” Joan Donovan, director of the technology and social change research project at Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center, told the Guardian.

“When there are large-scale fatalities and multiple emergencies, it’s very important for people to be able to communicate and feel safe … This really puts people who already have vulnerable access to communication in a much worse position. It is a dangerous precedent to set.”

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