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Sri Lanka says unhappy with Facebook’s hate-speech response

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka banned Facebook after the social media website failed to respond favourably to repeated government complaints against the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech, the telecommunications minister said.

Minister Harin Fernando said Facebook was slow to take down offensive content despite repeated complaints from the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Response Team (SLCERT) which was under his ministry.

"We were not very happy about the response rate. The lack of quick action was the problem," Fernando told reporters at his office in Colombo. "The way they responded was not good enough."

He said Facebook took about a week to review a complaint and had said it had only two people capable of reviewing content in Sinhala and hence the long delay. "One week is too long, by that time the damage is done."

However, he said talks with Facebook executives since Sri Lanka banning the site last week had been positive and they had given assurances of a better policing of content to remove hate speech.

"We are meeting them in Colombo on Thursday and after a face-to-face meeting we hope to be able to lift the ban by Friday," Fernando said.

Shortly after his press conference, the government separately announced that it will lift the restrictions on the messaging platform Viber. However, restrictions on WhatsApp will remain.

The minister said they were against online censorship, but the ban on Facebook and other platforms was necessary to prevent an escalation of anti-Muslim riots that left three people dead and over 200 houses and business in flames.

Censoring Lanka e-news

The minister was asked why the government had blocked access to the popular Sinhala website lankaenews.com long before the anti-Muslim riots.

Fernando said he was against the ban on Lanka e-News, but he was helpless to do anything about it because he did not want to rock the coalition government.





Fernando made it clear that the decision to stop Lanka e-News had been taken by President Sirisena and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and not the telecom or media ministries run by the UNP. (COLOMBO< March 13, 2018)


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