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.
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.