Sri Lanka's social media blackout reflects sense that online dangers outweigh benefits

Posted in: Internet Use/New Technologies at 22/04/2019 23:45

The Sri Lankan government’s decision to block all social media sites in the wake of Sunday’s deadly attacks is emblematic of just how much US-based technology companies’ failure to rein in misinformation, extremism and incitement to violence has come to outweigh the claimed benefits of social media.

Sri Lanka’s government moved to block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – all owned by Facebook – on Sunday out of concern that “false news reports … spreading through social media” could lead to violence. The services will be suspended until investigations into the blasts that killed more than 200 people are concluded, the government said. Non-Facebook social media services including YouTube and Viber have also been suspended, but Facebook and WhatsApp are the dominant platforms in the country.

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Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media, Fearing More Violence
Sri Lanka blocked several social media networks in the wake of terrorist attacks on Sunday, including Facebook and the messaging service WhatsApp. The extraordinary step reflects growing global concern, particularly among governments, about the capacity of American-owned networks to spin up violence.

YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber were also inaccessible, according to internet monitoring groups.

“This was a unilateral decision,” said Harindra Dassanayake, a presidential adviser in Sri Lanka.

Social media shut down in Sri Lanka in bid to stem misinformation
The Sri Lankan government blocked access to social media sites in the aftermath of the attacks that killed at least 207 people, in a bid to stop a spread of misinformation that could lead to further violence.

In a statement, Udaya R Seneviratne, from the office of the president, said the government had “taken steps to temporarily block all social media avenues until the investigations are concluded”. Officials said the eight explosions at churches and hotels, which injured more than 450 people, were suicide bomb attacks.

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