A coordinated series of attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka this morning has killed at least 200 people and injured at least 450 more. In response to the attack, the Sri Lankan government has restricted access to a number of social media sites, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube, according to local media and the monitoring site. Network blocks (via The New York Times).
The site says the government appears to have blocked Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber and YouTube, and authorities have issued a curfew in the country. Presidential Advisor Harindra Dassanayake said The New York Times that “this was a unilateral decision”, and was made out of concerns that the attacks would trigger additional waves of widespread misinformation, hate speech and violence. It is not immediately clear when the ban will be lifted.
The move is unprecedented in the country, which last year sparked riots fueled by misinformation on Facebook and temporarily banned the sites.
The move comes as Facebook and other social media platforms have come under scrutiny in recent years for their role in spreading misinformation and hoaxes that fuel violence, and the company has admitted that its efforts to contain such problems are they have fallen short in places like Myanmar. And countries like India have proposed new rules to try to force companies to do more to combat the problem.