Dear Sri Lanka, Please Don’t Ban Social Media

After the Easter Sunday church bombings, Sri Lanka banned social media for nine days, which has caused more harm than good.

St.Sebastian church in ruins after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka

St.Sebastian church in ruins after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka

Sanjana Gudivada, Staff Writer

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On April 22, the government of Sri Lanka issued a temporary nine-day ban on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Viber in light of recent church bombings on Easter Sunday that killed over 250 people. Issued over the fear of hate speech spreading, the ban did not stop people from finding loopholes out of the situation, such as downloading VPNs to get across the firewall. Unfortunately, some people could not cross the firewall barrier and faced difficulty contacting family members after the church bombings. The ban was not helpful to the people of Sri Lanka but instead separated families and hurt the country’s tourism industry.

Although a small minority could easily download VPNs to be exempt from the social media ban, many did not know of it or couldn’t download it on time had trouble contacting their families. Whatsapp and Facebook were the most commonly used sources to communicate in Sri Lanka and the blockage of these two media caused problems in communication. A family based in the UK reported that they had trouble contacting their Sri Lankan based family after the bombings.

In addition, banning social media negatively impacts Sri Lanka as a nation because it hurts its tourism and e-commerce industries, which are often promoted on social media sites. This isn’t the first time Sri Lanka has banned social media: in 2018, the country banned social media when mobs of Muslims attacked Sinhalese citizens in Buddhist temples. The government wanted to prevent mobs from planning their attacks and Buddhist extremists from spreading fake information to target Muslims. The ban backfired as the country faced a loss of $30,000,000 to its economy. Because industries in Sri Lanka such as tourism mostly market themselves online in forms of ads on Facebook, the ban forced companies to lose many potential customers. In desperate attempts to solve the issue of misinformation and hate speech, the government completely disregarded the damage to the economy could face in the absence of social media.

Sri Lanka banning social media did more harm than good for the country. It lead to economic decline and created disconnection within families. In conclusion, it caused an enormous amount of inconvenience and wasn’t beneficial in any way.