Sri Lanka's Social Media Ban Is Making Facebook Look Like A Victim. It Isn’t

Aman Sethi

The debate over the Sri Lankan government’s decision to block social media platforms in the light of the tragic Easter Sunday bombings brings into sharp relief what has been evident for some years now — platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter transmit and amplify the currents of discord coursing through our societies.

Over the past 48 hours, social media researchers including those based in Sri Lanka, have made telling and sensible arguments against the ban: In many countries, including Sri Lanka, state media or government-friendly but privately-owned ones are often the biggest sources of misinformation. Also, blocking social media platforms doesn’t work and those determined to spread misinformation can still do so by accessing these platforms using virtual private networks, or VPNs.

Despite its many flaws, social media, these researchers point out, allows private citizens to coordinate with each other, particularly at moments of crisis and calamity when panic-stricken families are desperate to ensure their relatives are safe.

And finally, Sri Lankan society, like most societies, is complex and riots between communities are often a consequence of forces far greater than social media. Shutting down these platforms serves little purpose.