Thursday, 28 May 2020 18:26

Present administration uses iron fist to crack down on social media

President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s administration has intensified crack down on social media misinformation about the corona virus pandemic while preparing even more repressive attacks on freedom of expression in response to rising social discontent.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been directed prevent the spread of falsehoods and rumours on Covis-19 which could cost lives.

But civil society activists claimed that the new directive can be used, not just against social media activists but any internet publishers and to witch-hunt journalists. The clear message is, “Do not criticise the Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s administration “

CID launched investigations into 400 incidents of spreading false information on the COVID-19 pandemic, via social media platforms.

Police said a special team is conducting these investigations and 16 people have so far been arrested over the charges of spreading false information via social media.

These arrests were made following investigations conducted by Police and CID.
A former Presidential staff member, a doctor, University administration official and a university student are among the arrested.

Sri Lankan police have arrested more than seven individuals, including several university students, on allegations of publishing “false” information on their Facebook accounts and “maliciously” criticising public officials involved in COVID-19 prevention programs.

The crackdown follows an April 1 directive by the acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) ordering the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and all police stations to arrest accused individuals.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Ajith Rohana later told the media that anyone sharing “false” information would also be charged.

The advent of internet, social media platforms and real time messengers has given a free run for people to express their view and share it with others, civil society activists claimed.

In fact, society, today is experiencing something called an ‘information flooding ’ where it has become extremely difficult to disambiguate truth from falsehood, they said adding that it is up to the people to decide but not the iron fist .


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