Real culprit well organised group with political links

Social media falsely blamed for violence


The economic cost of the partial shutdown of social media platforms in Sri Lanka from 7-15 March 2018 is around USD $30 million, the American non-profit organization The Internet Society has estimated.

The government tried to cut off communications among organizers of violent mobs, but the shutdown had a huge impact on a wide swath of internet users, they claim.

"Businesses and other organizations use WhatsApp and Viber as productivity tools, and their customer communications were disrupted. Small businesses and home-based workers who were totally depended on social media marketing to sell their products lost contact with the customers," said Sagarika Wickramasekera, president of Internet Society’s Sri Lanka chapter. Wickramasekera is the assistant network manager at the Sri Palee Campus for the University of Colombo.

The government accused the social media services of amplifying hate speech and allowing groups to coordinate attacks during the communal clashes earlier this month. However Wickramasekera downplayed the role of the four blocked services in the recent violence. "There was no such evidence that violence occurred due to social media," she said. "This unfortunate incident was orchestrated by a well-organized group with very evident political links and motives, not the general public."

The restrictions on social media were imposed on March 07 by President Maithripala Sirisena and affected Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Web-based calling service Viber. The services were restored on March 14 and 15.

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