After Sri Lankan authorities blocked social media services all over the island nation following the Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 200 people, many credible Sri Lankan expat voices weighed in on the pros and cons of such a censorship move.
While Esther Arshana Rajadurai, who is a policy officer and economist at The McKell Institute, wrote about the need to refrain from sharing any misinformation that will incite divisions, Suwadith, another Twitter user, urged others to stick only to the official news platforms.
Deeply unsettled by what is happening back home in Sri Lanka. Let's not jump to any conclusions, incite division on social media or share misinformation, let's just support our family back home. #SriLanka https://t.co/tPeSyd0gY1— Esther Arshana Rajadurai (@EstherRajadurai) April 21, 2019
It's sad to see something devastating like this happen to our country.— Suwadith (@Suwadith) April 21, 2019
But please be mindful about the stuff you share through social media. Documents and stuff can be easily forged. Just stick to some official news platform. #StayStrong #StayTogether #Srilanka
As of now, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber, all stand temporarily blocked.
The Sri Lankan government had also banned social media sites in March last year, after an attack on a Buddhist temple triggered anti-Muslim riots across the Kandy area.
There has been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque, and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims following the Sunday attacks, reported The Indian Express.
That explains the bid to block social media to prevent communal violence. However, Amantha, who is a journalist and media development strategist, pointed out how despite the social media blocking, it was still possible for people to share racist and extremist content through VPN tech.
Andreas Harsono, who works for Human Rights Watch, says the ban reflects the concern shared by many governments, over the way in which these American social media companies can whip up hysteria and unleash violence.
Sri Lanka blocked social media in the wake of terrorist attacks including Facebook and WhatsApp. It reflects growing global concern, particularly among governments, about the capacity of American-owned networks to spin up violence https://t.co/5j35MmL5Bt— Andreas Harsono (@andreasharsono) April 22, 2019
An interesting observation pointed out by Sanjana Hattotuwa, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, was that, in contrast to the messages of unity that were pouring in following the New Zealand attacks, the conversation in Sri Lanka wasn’t mirroring that.
You can read his thread in detail here.
Prelim observations of #EasterSundaySL attack in Sri Lanka. Data driven frames will come later this week. While #Christchurch attack resulted in hashtags within 24hrs anchored to national unity, diversity & democracy, no such hashtags in #lka.— Sanjana Hattotuwa (@sanjanah) April 21, 2019
To conclude, Burnt Roti Magazine, which is a magazine featuring South Asians, urged readers to not play a guessing game about who the culprits are, and to be mindful about sharing images.
Our thoughts are with those in Sri Lanka. Please be mindful about sharing images. Please be aware that a curfew has been imposed and access to social media & messaging services have been shut down. Please don’t play a guessing game on who the culprits are.— Burnt Roti Mag (@BurntRotiMag) April 21, 2019
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