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Blocking social networks in Sri Lanka raises fear about freedom of expression

May 13, 2019, 7:34 am

The decision of the Sri Lankan government to block social networks after Sunday’s deadly attacks highlighted growing distrust of online platforms, although critics say the measure not only restricts abusive content but also affects the flow of information.

The restrictions in Sri Lanka come amid the growing frustration of governments around the world for the spread of misinformation and incidents of violence on Internet platforms.

Sri Lanka blocks Social media’s including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and the Facebook messaging service after attacks on churches and hotels that left more than 200 people dead on Easter Sunday, said the NGO defender of digital rights. NetBlocks

This is the second time that Sri Lanka has blocked social networks. A similar measure was taken in 2018 after an outbreak of violence.

vernments around the world, including those who exploit social networks and state media … have realized the risks associated with platforms such as WhatsApp – Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at the Syracuse University

“They are quick to take action now to avoid rumors and social unrest, but the ease with which they are able to shut down the platforms also reveals how much power and control governments have over these companies and the need to protect freedom of expression.”

According to NetBlocks, the blockade in Sri Lanka may be counterproductive for having left out authentic sources of information.

The restrictions on the national internet network accelerate the spread of misinformation during a crisis because the authentic sources of information are offline – NetBlocks

“This allows third parties to exploit the situation to obtain political benefits and profit .”

The promise of the Sri Lankan authorities to maintain the blockade until their investigations are concluded is problematic, said Amy Lehr, director of the human rights initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank from Washington.

By blocking Facebook, Sri Lanka also blocked the “safety check” feature, which allows users to communicate with family and friends after a disaster.

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