ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Election Commission Thursday announced a crackdown on Facebook posts violating campaign laws governing the November 16 polls and vowed to jail offenders for up to three years.
Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya told reporters that several public servants who voted by post on Thursday had shared photos of their marked ballots on Facebook.
“This is a clear violation of election law,” Deshapriya told reporters in Colombo. “We will track down who did this. They could face up to three years in jail.”
He said the officials had violated the secrecy of the ballot by sharing their marked ballot papers on social media. Officials who are entrusted with conducting the November 16 polls vote ahead by post.
Deshapriya said the EC had an agreement with Facebook to trace those who generate and or share posts that violate campaign laws as well as public material that was defamatory of candidates.
“I have taken down at least three posts that were fake and defamatory of candidates,” Deshapriya said without giving details.
He said he had opened several hotlines as well as a WhatsApp number for political parties as well as the public to complaint about offending posts on social media.
Political parties have their own official Facebook pages in addition to hundreds of others managed either anonymous or through proxies.
This year’s campaign for the November 16 presidential election has been a marked drop in posters and streamers across city centres while advertising on social media has seen a sharp increase.
The two main candidates – opposition’s Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa – have pledged not to plaster walls with their posters and refrain from using plastic flags, banners and streamers out of consideration for the environment.
There is a record 35 candidates contesting the presidency in the nation of 21 million people. (COLOMBO, October 31, 2019)