A series of coordinated blasts against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka has resulted in 200 deaths and 450 injuries. Responding to the attack, the Sri Lankan government has restricted access to a number of social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube, as per local news and monitoring site Netblocks.
According to the site, the governments has seemingly blocked Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, and YouTube and a curfew has been issued in the country by authorities. Presidential advisor Harindra Dassanayake told The New York Times that “this was a unilateral decision,” and the step was taken to hold off widespread of fake news, misinformation, hate speech, and violence. It has not been made clear by the government as to when the ban will be lifted.
SriLanka witnessed violence in the country last year when misinformation shared on Facebook took the shape of real-world violence, during which the government temporarily banned the sites as well.
The move comes as a counter to the recent records of social media sites facing scrutiny as misinformation is shared widely throughout their platforms. Recently, social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter have been facing flak over their roles in the spread of misinformation and hoaxes that fuel violence, and the companies have acknowledged that their efforts of containing such problems have fallen short in places like Myanmar. Countries like India have proposed new rules to try and force social media companies to do more to solve this issue.