Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena called for the “immediate” lifting of a temporary ban on several social media platforms, which was put into effect with an aim to curb the spread of misinformation on the networks after the Easter bombings that left over 250 dead in the South Asian country. After the President’s decision, the government urged the public “to use social media responsibly even though the ban is lifted, due to the prevailing situation in the country.”
According to internet's observatory NetBlock.org, which tracks disruptions and shutdowns globally, access to social media and messaging apps were restored in Sri Lanka as of 11 am on April 30 - nine days after after the services were blocked as a security measure following a series of deadly terror attacks. Facebook, YouTube and other blocked services were made accessible with Sri Lanka’s leading internet providers. The access was fully returned for most internet subscribers, following two hours of gradual restoration.
Update: Access to social media and messaging apps is now almost completely restored across #SriLanka, following a gradual return that took two hours to complete after the blockade was first lifted this morning https://t.co/CCNd4xONl2 pic.twitter.com/M3Scd3nFVQ— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) 30 April 2019
The restrictions, which were imposed soon after the bombings at three churches and an equal number of hotels, raised concerns over the role of various social media platforms in dissemination of (mis)information. The move implied that platforms like Facebook and its capillary firms WhatsApp and Instagram, are seen as the propagator of violence and propaganda outweighing their benefits.
A New York Times report says that it is unclear how effective the ban was at “curbing the unrest, or whether information spread on social media has contributed to recent reports of some attacks on Sri Lanka’s Muslims and refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The report also says that Muslims, who comprise about 10 percent of the country’s population, have reported mobs attacking their homes and threatening violence. Those who are unaware, members of the Islamic State terrorist group took the responsibility of the attacks.