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The impact of the social media shutdown following Sri Lankan terrorist atrocities

In the wake of the Sri Lanka bombings, the government took the decision to temporarily ban Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Viber in order to minimise the spread of false news reports.

This is by no means unprecedented. Indeed a year previously, Sri Lankan officials blocked Facebook after it was accused of allowing posts inciting anti-Muslim violence. The propagation of false reports, misinformation and speculation can indeed have frightening consequences, from influencing elections to causing death. But in the minutes and hours after such a devastating series of events such as those in Sri Lanka, where do families turn to for news on their loved ones? How do authorities pool real time intelligence on events on the ground? How are witnesses identified? Very often through social media.  By cutting off social media, it may solve one problem, but it is not without its consequences. 


Posted on: April 29th, 2019