Fourth day of big brother muzzling social media

10 - March - 2018 | 271 Views | Share

As Sri Lankans spent the fourth day without access to the social media and instant messaging services, Purawesi Balaya, a Civil Society Organization accused the government of blocking those social media sites instead of taking action to identify the wrongdoers.

Co-convener of Purawesi Balaya Gamini Viyangoda stressed that the blocking of all social media platforms and instant messaging services clearly showed the government’s inability to prevent the disseminatoin of false news.

There might be only about 100 people on Facebook and other social media sites who were spreading unwanted information that could aggravate the communal violence, but the government blocked all sites and services instead of identifying those culprits, Viyangoda said.

He also said that the government should have a proper mechanism to monitor those social media platforms without waiting till the outbreak of serious ethnic violence as in Digana in the Kandy District to act.

On March 07, the government temporarily blocked social media web sites like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to prevent the spread of hate speech in the country. The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) has commenced monitoring all social media platforms to curb hate speech related to communal riots that escalated in the Kandy district.

Police Media Spokesperson Superintendent Ruwan Gunasekera however told The Island that the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had arrested ten people including someone called Weerasinghe, alleged to be one of the masterminds of the communal unrest in Kandy and all of them were identified through Facebook.

He said further investigations were underway to identify those who spread communal unrest through social media.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) welcomed the government decision to block the social media platforms and instant messaging services, saying that it was the most appropriate decision that could have been taken at that time.

BASL President U. R. de Silva, however, said restrictions on social media had to be lifted as soon as possible. Most of the Police officers were not aware of the powers they had to monitor those social media platforms in order to prevent communal unrest, De Silva stressed.

Asked whether the privacy of those who used the social media would be in jeopardy if the government continued to monitor those sites, the BASL President said the government had granted untrammelled freedom on using social media but many people had misused it to either tarnish someone’s name or spread false information leaking to the communal unrest, therefore all social media should be controlled up to a certain level.

According to Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT), on an average five complaints had been received by the SLCERT a day.

SLCERT Chief Information Security Engineer Roshan Chandragupta said that it had received 520 complaints during January and February this year.

However, the CERT had received about ten complaints on Monday and Tuesday before the government blocked the social media sites. "But those complaints had nothing to do with the communal unrest," Chandragupta said.

Usually the complaints what the CERT received were about fake Facebook accounts and publishing unwanted pictures on Facebook by someone else’s and what SLCERT did was to provide them with the technical assistance.

"We have no mechanism to monitor the nature of the contents published by the Facebook users," he added.

According to available statistics on internetworlstats website, Sri Lanka has about 4,200,000 Facebook subscribers as at June 2017. Accordingly 20.1 percent of Sri Lankans were active members of the Facebook.

About 32 percent of Sri Lankans are using of internet.

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