Sri Lanka blasts: Lankan government blocks access to Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp in the wake of terror attacks

Facebook did not respond to the government's request for better content moderation until services were suspended.

Sri Lanka has restricted access to social media platforms following a terror attack that left more than 200 people dead and at least 450 injured. Eight bombs exploded in three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

According to a report by The New York Times, the Sri Lankan government has restricted access to sites including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, and YouTube.

(Click here to head to our live blog for the latest news and updates on the blasts in Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka blasts: Lankan government blocks access to Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp in the wake of terror attacks

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Reuters

"This was a unilateral decision," presidential adviser Harindra Dassanayake told the Times, explaining officials worried that the spread of misinformation and hate speech could incite violence.

The move isn't a first for the country though. In 2018, Sri Lankan officials blocked access to social media platforms when viral posts on Facebook called for violent attacks against Muslim communities, provoking riots.

The report also notes that Facebook did not respond to the government's request for better content moderation until it cut off the social network entirely.

Countries have struggled in the past with viral, violent misinformation on social media as well and resort to similar measures.  India, for example, restricted access to Facebook in 2012 in wake of rioting, and in 2019, rumours spread on WhatsApp were linked to multiple lynchings across the country.

Sri Lankan officials have not yet announced when the government will restore access to social media yet.

 

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