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Sri Lanka Blocks Facebook, Instagram To Prevent Spread of Hate Speech ( 123

Sri Lanka has blocked social media websites Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to avoid the spread of hate speech in the country, local media reported on Wednesday. From the report: Even though there is no official confirmation from the authorities, the Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne on Wednesday said the government has decided to block access to certain social media. Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC) has started to monitor all social media platforms to curb hate speech related to communal riots escalated in Kandy district. Telecommunication service providers (ISPs) have also restricted internet access in Kandy district on the instructions of the TRC.

Sri Lanka Blocks Facebook, Instagram To Prevent Spread of Hate Speech

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  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @05:50AM (#56220833)

    It's funny, the social networks have gotten to the point where they can disrupt a society more than they can help it. Time to shut them all down and start again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evanh ( 627108 )

      Agreed. No rules (global reach) + commercial = "wild-west"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The EU takes a smarter approach: no block, but strict laws governing a posteriori censorship (because that's what the proposed anti hate speech laws amount to). Think social media are afraid of those laws? Think again. I think that there might be some unholy alliance brewing between governments and social media. The EU makes anti hate speech laws that are onerous, with harsh fines, but at the same time just a little bit vague. That gives social media the excuse they need to start censoring stuff that t
      • afraid of government threats over saying the wrong thing is Ok as long as you agree with the government in what is the wrong thing to say?

        How is this any different from Russia or China or North Korea again? In both cases, if there is a discrepancy between what the government doesn't want you to say and what you want to say, the government wins.

        Don't worry, though. Europe won't misuse the power to censor to help those in power maintain power, even though human history is crammed with examples and e

    • The problem isn't social networks, but foreign actors who abuse their flaws.

      Lets use social media to setup a Protest against Policy X and try to get all the people who are fervently against it to show up. At the same time with a different login name setup a Protest in the same spot strongly supporting Policy X get as many people fervently for it to show up too. If they are lucky it will cause violence. The country doesn't care about Policy X, only that it is contentious and easy to manipulate people to g

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Do you really think social networks are the problem? Fake news are the problem?
      Nope. It's people the real problem. We are still full of people that decide and act entirely driven by emotions. Fake news or hate speech only resonate with something that was already inside them, rotting. They are not interested in how true or false a news article or a position may be. They already decide they were going to hate this group or believe this nonsense beforehand, and the fake news article is just a form of validatio

      • Average American to the media: "We want more "human interest" stories with a positive outlook. Stop serving us divisive, sensational stories with no redeeming social value!"

        {Clicks furiously on all of the divisive, sensational news stories with no redeeming social value}

    • An alternative to blocking them: Requiring actual names and user registrations. Every account links back to a real person and their real name is beside every post. No more bots, no more offshore Texans from Russia.

      Dating myself, but back in Ye Olde Days of BBSs, you had to apply and the SysOp would call you to verify your information before activating your account on their system. We used pseudonyms but the SysOp had a list of who everyone really was, and if someone acted like an ass on the message boar

      • They are trying that but get into heat over subjects people need anonymity for.

        In any case, the right to speak anonymously is part of free speech, and is like the right to vote anonymously, and for much the same reason.

        • > They are trying that but get into heat over subjects people need anonymity for.

          Can you come up with a real world example of why someone would *need* anonymity to post to Facebook, for example? Private emails and the like can be encrypted, as well as sent from anonymized services, but I really don't think there is a *need* to post to any public forum anonymously. It's very open to abuse as we've seen. For every concerned diner that posts a bad review and mentions real unsanitary conditions at a resta

  • I can totally see blocking Facebook and Instagram, but I don't really get WhatsApp? You could just as well block the phone network.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For example is criticizing someone's political, social, economic, or religious beliefs hate speech?

    Is bullying harrassing and insulting a person hate speech? And if so, is it hate speech simply to call them an idiot, or would you have to go as far as calling them a nazi or something equally hurtful?

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @07:07AM (#56220943)
      In this particular case, a Buddhist man died so Buddhists are rioting and have burned down numerous mosques and Muslim owned shops and houses. Sri Lanka is not long removed from a pretty intense 25 year civil war between the Tamil minority and buddhist government. The Tamils are mostly Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. So Sri Lanka has a bit of a history of violence and oppression towards non-buddhists.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If even Buddhists hate you, you're probably doing something wrong.

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          If even Buddhists hate you, you're probably doing something wrong.

          Or rather, people are going to be people, regardless of their religion(or lack thereof).

      • by gopla ( 597381 )

        So Sri Lanka has a bit of a history of violence and oppression towards non-buddhists.

        I agree with the history of civil strife in Sri Lanka. However in this case it is the government ( mostly Buddhist) that is doing its best to stop spread of violence, hence the blame on Buddhists is unjustified.

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          So Sri Lanka has a bit of a history of violence and oppression towards non-buddhists.

          I agree with the history of civil strife in Sri Lanka. However in this case it is the government ( mostly Buddhist) that is doing its best to stop spread of violence, hence the blame on Buddhists is unjustified.

          The Buddhist government is from all appearances trying to protect the Muslims, so yes, they aren't to blame. But a segment of the Buddhist population is still rioting and committing violence so the blame towards those Buddhists is justified.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The left defines hate speech, it's simply anything that they disagree with.

        • As you can see the ECHR is a catastrophe. It definitely doesn't protect the rights it should - e.g the right to free speech is so hedged with caveats it is essentially worthless. In addition to the cases in the document above governments are allowed to restrict free speech to


          * interests of national security
          * territorial integrity or public safety
          * prevention of disorder or crime
          * protection of health or morals
          * protection of the reputation or the rights of others
          * preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence
          * maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary

          Meanwhile it interprets Article 8 'the right to family life' in a way which blocks deportation


          So the government can't deport foreign criminals but it can imprison people

    • >is criticizing someone's political, social, economic, or religious beliefs hate speech?

      That would be criticism if it is a reasoned argument critical of someone's beliefs or views. Reasonable people can disagree without being hateful, using firearms, committing arson, running down people, etc.

      >Is bullying harrassing and insulting a person hate speech?

      No. That is NOT hate speech.

      That is a hate crime. (Or hateful actions if it does not rise to the level of a crime.) Hate Crime is a sente
  • That government, so nice of them fighting against hate speech. Sure... the first responsibility of rulers is caring for their subjects, everybody will buy that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Religion should be classified as mental illness.

    • It almost is already, it's just that the DSM writers have been very careful to exclude the results of brainwashing of children.
      • Religion is the only way to bring healing to a world deeply and violently divided by religion.
        • I laughed the laugh of helpless agreement, recognition, and irony at your post. Much appreciated! It reminded me of one my favorite sayings: "To have a perfect utopia all we have to do is kill all of the violent people."

          It also brought up another thought. At some point in my life I was given a functional definition of religion, and a contrasting definition of spirituality. These definitions have been very helpful for me to reconcile how humans who "recognize" a higher power can manifest that same belie

          • > Spirituality: Knowing that your higher power accepts and loves you unconditionally.

            Some would put it this way. You aren't worthy of God's love. You can't do anything to make yourself worthy. It is free and unconditional. You have to believe and confess. At that point, the desire and striving for perfection should not be confused with trying to make oneself worthy of God's attention. No matter how hard you try to impress God, he's probably not easy to impress.
    • Religion should be classified as mental illness.

      Intersectionality is the new religion []

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @07:01AM (#56220937)

    You've got an excuse to shut down social media because people post 'hate speech' on it, aka complaining about the bad effects of diversity.

    See also Singapore, China etc. And it's coming to Europe too. After Merkel decided to let in anyone who arrived, Germany started to have a problem with racism - aka the natives bitching about the bad behaviour of the new arrivals.

    The solution was to threaten social media companies with massive fines unless they remove 'hate speech' within 24 hours []

    "WHAT the hell is wrong with this country?" fumed Beatrix von Storch to her 30,000 Twitter followers on December 31st: "Why is the official police page in NRW [North Rhine-Westphalia] tweeting in Arabic?" The MP for the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party detected in the force's multilingual new-year greeting a bid "to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men". The next day her tweet--and, for 12 hours, her entire account--vanished from Twitter. In the subsequent political storm Alice Weidel, co-leader of the AfD, came to Ms von Storch's defence: "Our authorities are subordinating themselves to imported, rampaging, groping, punching, stabbing migrant mobs," she tweeted. That, too, was promptly deleted.

    Germany's memories of the Gestapo and the Stasi undergird its commitment to free speech. "There shall be no censorship," decrees the constitution. Even marches by Pegida, an Islamophobic and anti-immigrant movement founded in 2014, receive police protection. But the country of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust also takes a punitive attitude to what it deems "hate speech". Inciting hatred can carry a prison sentence of up to five years, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is available only in annotated form, and it is illegal to single out any part of the population for insult or other abuse that could "breach the peace". Irmela Mensah-Schramm, a Berlin pensioner who spray-paints over swastikas and other racist graffiti, is a national hero.

    Reconciling these two convictions--for free speech and against hate speech--is becoming harder, particularly since Angela Merkel's refugee gambit in 2015. Opening Germany's borders to some 1.2m mostly Muslim migrants has fuelled the rise of nativist outfits like the AfD and Pegida. Racist propaganda and sensationalist reports (some, though not all, fake) of criminal and rapist immigrants have rippled across social media. In 2016, for example, the number of criminal investigations into online hate speech in Berlin rose by 50%. A number of the newcomers from the Middle East and Africa are anti-Semitic. Confronting such ills without encroaching too much on freedom of expression is tricky.

    The most prominent example of the balancing act is the new Net Enforcement Law (NetzDG), of which Ms von Storch's and Ms Weidel's tweets were early victims. Inspired by the rise of fake news and a report suggesting that only a minority of illegal posts on social media were being removed within a day (and just 1% or so on Twitter), the law cleared the Bundestag last June and came into force on January 1st. It sets out 20 things defining a comment as "clearly illegal", such as incitement to hatred or showing the swastika. Once posts are flagged by users, a social-media firm has 24 hours--extended to a week in complex cases--to check and remove those that contravene the rules, or face a €50m ($60m) fine. In the first week, Facebook's over 1,000 German moderators have had to process hundreds of thousands of cases.

    Overwhelmed by the volume and wary of incurring such huge fines, social-media firms are erring on the side of censorship. On January 2nd Titanic, a satirical magazine, joked that Ms von Storch would be its new guest tweeter. Two of the subsequent tweets mocking the AfD politician were censored. When Titanic republished them, its account was suspended for two days. The epitome of NetzDG's overreach came last weekend when an old tweet by Heiko Maas, the justice minister who had introduced the law, calling an author who opposes immigration an "idiot" was removed, seemingly under its provisions.

    Too much anti-hate?

    Criticism is mounting. The AfD has been joined by the liberal Free Democrats, the Greens and the socialist Left party in calling for its repeal. The Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers is also opposed. Its director warns that social-media firms are defaulting to deletion in cases of doubt, to control costs. The government says it will review the law's effects in several months' time.

    Predictably, one man's protest is another's hate speech. On December 8th Israeli flags were burned at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in response to Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the country's capital. Despite accompanying chants of "Israel, murderer of children", the local police said the act was covered by freedom of speech legislation and was thus protected--prompting the Israeli ambassador to urge that the law be changed and Armin Schuster, an influential Christian Democrat MP, to argue that immigrants found guilty of burning the Israeli flag should be expelled from Germany. His idea may come into practice: the CDU is planning to change deportation rules in time for Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th, to make it easier to remove anti-Semitic newcomers.

    Mrs Merkel's refugee policies have also fuelled free-speech debates by making her government reliant on Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, whose co-operation has helped reduce the flow of migrants through the Balkans. Last April the chancellor declined to block the prosecution of Jan Böhmermann, a German comedian who had made crude jokes about Mr Erdogan, under an archaic law against insulting foreign heads of state (which has since been repealed).

    All of which points to a broader truth: regulating speech was easier in the past, when Germany was a more settled, homogeneous and conformist place. The wave of new arrivals since 2015 has accelerated its long-term evolution into a more plural, fragmented country. Long after Britain and France, Germany is becoming a land of immigrants. The arrival of the AfD in the Bundestag after its election in September increased the number of groupings there to a record six, up from three for most of the post-war period. The internet is generating dissenting and outspoken competitors to the country's more cautious established media. This new, more open and varied Germany is harder to govern.

    • by Kiuas ( 1084567 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:11AM (#56221019)

      After Merkel decided to let in anyone who arrived, Germany started to have a problem with racism - aka the natives bitching about the bad behaviour of the new arrivals.

      If you think this situation started with the refugee crisis, think again. Germany has had such laws in the books long before the current refugee crisis, up to the point that using nazi-symbolism is punishable by law, as is denying the holocaust. These laws prohibiting 'incitement of violence' or hatred against ethnic grouops have been on the books for decades, the recent law regarding social media is just the latest development. Even prior to the passage of the law, someone posting hate speech online could be fined in Germany and elsewhere, the only thing that the law changed was make it possible for the platforms to be fined for failing to remove such content.

      Now granted, the recent influx of refugees has made the situation a lot more heated, but the general point is that Germany has been using censorship and hate-speech laws to control the (mostly) far-right groups in the country long before the last couple of years.

      Note that this is not to say I agree with their laws, I think they're hastily implemented and essentially make the problem worse, not better. But the general point is that this sort of attitude within Germany (as well as other European countries) is not something they just recently came up with. The 2nd world war left its mark on the law(s) in many places, including here in Finland, Austria, Ireland and the UK.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You miss the point where those laws were not enforced because they weren't necessary. The minute immigration was kicked into full swing awoke the sheep. The same thing is happening in many countries where immigration far outweighs the social impact. Canada for example, especially around heavily populated areas like the GTA (Toronto) and GVRD (Vancouver), have serious immigration problems. _None_ of the violence is covered by the local media neither is the land grabs. There are entire cities where yo

      • If you think this situation started with the refugee crisis, think again.

        Completely agree. I'd also add that Germany has had a long existing Turkish minority in the country which has created tensions for a while. In fact, before the refugee crisis, Chancellor Merkel had a speech in which she declared failure in Germany's efforts at multiculturalism and integrating its minorities. [] Mind you, we should also remember the German context in that it imported Turkish workers and effectively ghettoized them, making only token efforts to integrate them in hopes they'd go back home when

    • by dabadab ( 126782 )

      "to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men"

      Care to elaborate on how it is NOT hate speech?

      • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @01:08PM (#56222361)

        Care to elaborate why it should be banned?

        • by dabadab ( 126782 )


          I was not the one to come out in the defense of banning hate speech so I really don't see any reason why I should be defending it.

          However it was you who put apostrophes around hate speech.

          • Hate speech is very much subjective though - people who want hate speech against Muslims banned seem pretty quick to express hate against other groups - whites, men, conservatives, Christians and so on.

            What they want is to censor hate by their political opponents but not hate by people they see as allies. It's an example of Salami Tactics


            The term salami tactics (Hungarian: szalámitaktika) was coined in the late 1940s by the orthodox communist leader Mátyás Rákosi to describe the actions of the Hungarian Communist Party. Rákosi claimed he destroyed the non-Communist parties by "cutting them off like slices of salami." By portraying his opponents as fascists (or at the very least fascist sympathizers), he was able to get the opposition to slice off its right wing, then its centrists, then the more courageous left wingers, until only those fellow travelers willing to collaborate with the Communists remained in power.

            I.e. it's only ever applied to the right and the left keeps adding new examples of hate speech that need to be purged. And those examples

            • by dabadab ( 126782 )

              Okay and this is ENTIRELY besides the point.

              I did not ask in general - I have asked in a very specific case.

              • People on both the left and right say hateful things but I'm not going to go along with a left wing plan to ban only the right wing hate as 'hate speech'.

    • You either have freedom of speech, or you don't. Germany does not.

  • Where's Arthur C Clarke's ghost going to post his sexy scuba selfies now?!
  • Temporary block (Score:5, Informative)

    by gopla ( 597381 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @07:42AM (#56220979)

    This is a common practice in this part of the world. A temporary blockage of social media for 1-2 days, usually restricted to just a district or a city is common in India.

    It is employed when the law enforcing agencies are caught unaware about some sudden flashpoint that triggers street violence. This blockage stops spreading of violence to larger area and give time to enforcement agencies to mobilize their resources

    It is not to be confused with censorship or blanket ban of internet / social media forever. Over all it has a positive impact in preventing larger scale destruction of life and properties for cost of inconvenience of few days.

  • Can they still use tor ?
    • Even if they could only a small minority of people will use Tor. That's the lesson of China unfortunately - you don't need to block unapproved opinions completely. You just need to make them hard to get to and at the same time run a campaign in the media you control to say foreign sites are spreading porn and degeneracy and that visiting them is unpatriotic.

      The western version of this is when the mainstream sites started to call, voat and 'Alt Right', 'fake news' and/or 'Russian propaganda'

  • Yup. That works every time. How long until the next civil war?
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:24AM (#56221041) Journal

    Hmm, a government faced with civil disturbances decides to block social media "to curb hate speech"?


    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Since these civil disturbances have led to people being killed: Yes, there is hate speech to curb, and yes these measures at least help.

      At least it is better than the 'lala-can't-hear-you' policy that the government used in the past.

  • State of emergency (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is part of a state of emergency [] imposed after violence broke out between Buddhists and Muslims.

    I've been to Sri Lanka quite a lot in the 1990's (I had friends there), when the war was still raging in the north and east, and then the government responded to bombings and other emergencies by declaring a state of emergency and imposing curfews. They basically shut down large parts of society to let things cool down, including transport. It once happened just when I was about to leave the country. Public t

  • ... as long as they don't block IRC and blogs and RSS.

    The reason is appalling though, IMHO.

  •'s useless.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @10:31AM (#56221461) Homepage

    When talking about elections, Stalin reputedly said: "It's not who votes that counts; it's who counts the votes". Whenever one of these "hate speech" articles come up, I think of something similar: It's not the hate speech that matters; it's who gets to define what hate speech is.

    I live in Europe, where the equivalent to the American 1st Amendment is ridiculously watered down. The European equivalent says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. ... The exercise of these freedoms ... may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for..." and the list of exceptions continues...

    Which means: Just like in Sri Lanka, European governments can restrict your speech based on the ruling elite's ideas of necessity, safety and morals. Which basically means that they can restrict any damned thing they please.

    Censorship is evil. Speech may be uncomfortable, it may be offensive, but there are very, very few situations where it should be restricted.

    • In both places you mention, firearms ownership is curbed or heavily regulated by the government. Your government is not "by the people, for the people" because you have no way to enforce your will. In the case of Sri Lanka, folks have no choice but to accept this assault on their basic human right of free speech because they are helpless to do anything. I fear the same will happen in the US as we head down the slippery slope of firearm "regulation"

  • When a dangerous topic comes up, yank the plug for a few days and hope it defuses itself.

    That's what happened when the news of the Google anti-right-wing censorship rampage broke.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun