Fact-checking, filtering mechanisms mooted to combat Sri Lanka fake news

ECONOMYNEXT – Mechanisms for fact-checking and filtering out harmful content need to be developed to counter fake news and hate speech in Sri Lanka, experts have suggested at a national security forum.

There was a general agreement by participants at the forum held by the Institute of National Security Studies in Sri Lanka (INSSSL) that in the event of unrest, temporary social media blocks are not a permanent solution.

“Long-term resilient solutions must be in place that balances regulation with the right to free speech and privacy of users,” the institute said in a statement on the outcome of its forum on the impact of fake news on national security.

Among suggestions at the forum was the possibilities of co-regulation of social media by an independent commission such as the constitutional council and media self-regulation.

“A fact checking mechanism on fake news is neither a difficulty nor time consuming. Fact checking can be done fast if a proper mechanism is set up,” the statement said.
Group Captain M D A G Seneviratne of CERT, the Computer Emergency Readiness Team which handles cyber security, brought in the military perspective.

“Misinformation directed at the military is a national security concern. Regulation is needed on misinformation in the public domain. There has to be a long term solution to censorship,” he said.

“Inter-agency groups, Defence Ministry’s Cyber Security Unit, filtering mechanisms on harmful content are options that should be explored.”

Roshan Chandragupta from CERT brought in the technical perspective saying:“It is difficult to identify individuals behind certain accounts on social media, track IP addresses and obtain court orders to do so. We need to balance data privacy and privacy of users against the need for regulation.”

The institute said most of the discussion revolved around politicization of narratives on media.

“Some narratives on ethnic, racial and religious frontlines can be dangerous to democracy. While accessibility and speed of information has increased, accuracy and objectivity has declined.”





Harindra Dissanayake, from the President’s Media Unit, said there are six million Facebook users in Sri Lanka and Facebook doesn’t pay taxes in the island.

“Also lack of country specific data makes it difficult to analyze and get a comprehensive picture into Sri Lanka’s Facebook activity. Among the corpus of Facebook users Sinhala language is a minority community which makes content moderation an issue against Facebook community standards,” Dissanayake said.

(COLOMBO, June 22, 2018)


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