Sri Lanka blocks social media after deadly attacks

Combined Shape

Sri Lankan authorities blocked most social media after Easter Sunday attacks killed more than 200 people, with officials saying the temporary move was meant to curtail the spread of false information and ease tensions.

The NetBlocks observatory said it detected an intentional blackout of popular services including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber.

The defense ministry said the shutdown would extend until the government concludes its investigation into the bomb blasts that rocked churches, luxury hotels and other sites.

NetBlocks cautioned that such post-attack blackouts are often ineffective.

“What we’ve seen is that when social media is shut down, it creates a vacuum of information that’s readily exploited by other parties,” said Alp Toker, executive director of the London-based group. “It can add to the sense of fear and can cause panic.”

Trending:
In Just 4 Months, Biden Manages to Highlight How Competent Trump Was Over Previous 4 Years

The group said its monitoring of Sri Lankan internet connectivity found no disruptions to the fundamental infrastructure of the internet, meaning the blackout was directed at specific services. Some social media outlets, such as Twitter, appeared unaffected, but the blockage affected popular messaging services.

“That’s going to be a problem for people trying to communicate with friends and family,” Toker said.

Some internet users are circumventing the social media blocks by using a virtual private network, which masks the location of a computer, Toker said.

It isn’t the first time Sri Lanka has blocked social media. The government imposed a weeklong ban in March 2018 because of concerns that WhatsApp and other platforms were being used to fan anti-Muslim violence in the country’s central region.

An analysis by Sri Lankan researcher and author Yudhanjaya Wijeratne of thousands of Facebook posts made during last year’s ban found that many Sri Lankans simply found ways around it. Wijeratne has recommended narrower and more “technically challenging” approaches to curbing hate speech, such as better detection and strengthening local laws.

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and Instagram, has struggled in recent years to combat the use of its platforms to incite violence and spread hate messages and political propaganda in countries including India, Myanmar and the United States.

The company said in a statement Sunday that it has been working to support first responders and law enforcement in Sri Lanka and identify and remove content that violates company standards.

“We are aware of the government’s statement regarding the temporary blocking of social media platforms,” the company said. “People rely on our services to communicate with their loved ones and we are committed to maintaining our services and helping the community and the country during this tragic time.”

Google didn’t respond to a request for comment about the disruption to its YouTube service in Sri Lanka. Requests for comment made to messaging services Snap and Viber were not returned Sunday.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →






We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
Combined Shape
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation