« Disinformation in Sri Lanka: An Overview » by Groundviews

Editor’s Note: This discussion note was prepared in the run up to the Digital Disinformation Forum, held on June 26 and 27. Excerpts of this were used in a moderated discussion on the media’s efforts to build resilience to disinformation. 

Fake news became a buzzword around the 2016 US Presidential election campaign. However, it’s something we have been grappling with in Sri Lanka for years. Fake news, is news created with the intent to deceive. However, the term has also been distorted over the years. Not only has it been used by people to dismiss news they don’t like, but it has also become confused with reporting that requires correction, as the Washington Post pointed out. In fact, saying something is ‘fake news’ doesn’t necessarily make it so – Trump himself often accuses entire publication houses as being fake.

To understand how and why fake news has been such a persistent problem in Sri Lanka, it’s necessary to understand a little about the political context. Sri Lanka is still recovering from nearly three decades of civil war that, among other issues along lines of language, land, ethnic politics, education and employment, has sowed deep and enduring divisions between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities.

For decades, politicians have deliberately pandered to the Sinhala majority community and their needs in order to gain political mileage- from as back as 1956, when Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranaike passed the Sinhala Only Act, which made Sinhalese the official language of administrative service. In the run up to elections, politicians, news outlets and social media have all put out information designed deliberately to mislead.

Read the article in full here.

Source: Groundviews

« Liking violence: A study of hate speech on Facebook in Sri Lanka » by CPA

24 September 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is pleased to launch ‘Liking violence: A study of hate speech on Facebook in Sri Lanka’, authored by Shilpa Samaratunge and Sanjana Hattotuwa.

Download the full report here or read it online here. Download just the Introduction and Executive Summary here or read it online here.

The report is the first in Sri Lanka to focus on hate and dangerous speech in online fora, contextualising the growth of this disturbing digital content with increasing violence against Muslims and other groups in Sri Lanka. As the blurb on the front cover of the report avers,

« The growth of online hate speech in Sri Lanka does not guarantee another pogrom. It does however pose a range of other challenges to government and governance around social, ethnic, cultural and religious co-existence, diversity and, ultimately, to the very core of debates around how we see and organise ourselves post-war. »

The report looks at 20 Facebook groups in Sri Lanka over a couple of months, focussing on content generated just before, during and immediately after violence against the Muslim community. Detailed translations into English of the original material posted to these groups (including photographic and visual content) and the responses they generated are provided. It is the first time a study has translated into English the qualitative nature of commentary and content published on these Facebook groups, indicative of a larger and growing malaise in post-war Sri Lanka.

More generally, the study looks at the phenomenon of hate speech online – how it occurs and spreads online, what kind of content is produced, by whom and for which audiences. In addition to Sri Lanka, policy frameworks and legislation around online hate speech in Kenya, Rwanda, India, Pakistan, Canada and Australia are also flagged in the report.