Sri Lanka proposes new law on fake news after Easter attacks

Police officers work at the scene at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. (File/Reuters)
Updated 05 June 2019
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Sri Lanka proposes new law on fake news after Easter attacks

  • Sri Lanka shut down Internet access in March last year to prevent further violence when anti-Muslim mobs went on the rampage in the island nation’s central region
  • During the violence, mobs used social media platforms to organize attacks against minority groups

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government will introduce five-year jail terms for those caught spreading fake news and hate speech on social media, the government said Wednesday, following a surge in online vitriol and disinformation after the Easter suicide attacks.
The cabinet of ministers approved a proposal by the acting justice minister, which will also see offenders fined one million rupees ($5,715), the government said in a statement.
It did not immediately release a definition of the two offenses, but said the penal code will be amended to introduce the new penalties.
The move follows repeated government allegations that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp have been used to spread online hate, in a country where ethnic divisions still linger after decades of war.
Sri Lanka shut down Internet access in March last year to prevent further violence when anti-Muslim mobs went on the rampage in the island nation’s central region, killing three people and destroying hundreds of homes, shops, vehicles and mosques.
During the violence, mobs used social media platforms to organize attacks against minority groups.
Sri Lankan social networks also saw a surge in fake news after the Easter suicide bombings that left 258 people dead and nearly 500 wounded.
A nine-day ban on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp was introduced following the Daesh-claimed attacks on three churches and three hotels on April 21.
Last month Singapore’s parliament passed laws to combat fake news that will allow authorities to order the removal of content and could see those convicted of violations imprisoned for up to 10 years.


Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

Updated 21 July 2019
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Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

  • Twitter said the accounts harassed people linked to the Baha’i faith
  • The Baha’i faith is a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran

WASHINGTON: A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith.
Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure.
But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran.
It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.
“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts.
Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.
Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.
“Since last night and after seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz the account of the Young Journalists’ Club and some other users have been suspended,” the YJC said on its website.
Mehr noted that its Mehr Diplomacy account, which publishes analysis and interviews on foreign policy, was also offline.
Another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hard-line public speaker.
None of the owners of the suspended accounts said they had been given any reason for the move by Twitter.
The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private network, or VPN, to bypass censorship.