“Weaponising 280 characters: What 200,000 tweets and 4,000 bots tell us about state of Twitter in Sri Lanka” by Sanjana Hattotuwa, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and Raymond Serrato

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has released a report on social media, “Weaponising 280 characters: What 200,000 tweets and 4,000 bots tell us about state of Twitter in Sri Lanka”. The report is available for immediate download here.
The report is a collaboration between Sanjana Hattotuwa, a Senior Researcher at CPA and the head of the Civic Media Team and two leading data scientists – Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, based in Sri Lanka and Raymond Serrato, based in Germany. It is a response to an unprecedented social media phenomenon in Sri Lanka, with disturbing as well as potentially deeply disruptive implications for the health of the country’s democratic dialogue and electoral processes.
The recent violence in Kandy brought social media under renewed scrutiny for its role, reach and relevance in contributing to the production and spread of violent, hateful content. Starting late March, weeks after the cessation of the violent attacks, Twitter users began noticing a tsunami of accounts with no bios, no tweets and the default profile picture following them. Several fake Twitter accounts were identified to be promoting false or misleading content during the violence in Kandy. This, coupled with the heightened production of suspicious Twitter accounts raised red flags amongst Twitter users.
Given the scale and scope of the infestation, CPA’s English language civic media platform Groundviews, for the first time in the Sri Lankan Twittersphere, took the step of making public its block list, which other users could import. Even this measure though was not enough to address the high frequency with which new, fake accounts were being created, attaching themselves to prominent Twitter users in Sri Lanka. A preliminary analysis of 1,262 accounts, a subset of the larger dataset used for this report, indicated that the majority of suspicious accounts following Twitter users were bots.
A visualisation of the number of accounts targeted by the bots revealed that leading diplomats, Ambassadors based in Sri Lanka, the official accounts of diplomatic missions, leading local politicians, the former President of the Maldives, media institutions, civil society organisations and initiatives, leading journalists, cricketers and other individuals were amongst those who had large numbers of bot followers.
Considering bots are now a permanent feature of Sri Lanka’s Twitter landscape and will likely grow in scope and scale leading up to elections or a referendum, it is important to ask how to address the issue at scale, given the number of citizens – directly connected as well as influenced by those connected – involved.
Even with its limited scope and data, this report is a clear snapshot of the political landscape we now inhabit, and projects in the future real dangers that result from just the visible investments made around key social media platforms, which are today the key information and news vectors for a demographic between 18-34.
This report by CPA follows the path-breaking data driven study into the bots and trolls associated with a prominent politician in Sri Lanka, published in January 2018, which was also a collaborative research exercise with Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. Download Namal Rajapaksa, bots and trolls: New contours of digital propaganda and online discourse in Sri Lanka here.
For further information and media inquiries, please contact Sanjana Hattotuwa on sanjanah@cpalanka.org.
Source:The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

“The Abuse And Pathetic State Of The State Media” by Nimal Bhareti

A word about the editor of the Daily News Rajpal Abeynayake which is in no way intended to be personal to him. Rajpal in his editorials uses gutter language sometimes bordering on vulgarity to attack others. This gutter language he uses also in a morning daily one hour radio show on SLBC called “People’s Power “which is disgusting to listen to, is full of lies, and personal attacks on individuals. It is absolute rubbish and only uses prime time of SLBC when many are driving while listening to music. Recently he called MP Bathiudeen who crossed over a pig. When Bathiudeen protested he apologised to pigs for comparing them with the MP. This is the type of newspaper editor Rajpal is.

So if any newspaper readers still foolishly buy the Daily News and Sunday Observer I request them stop buying it, boycott it completely, and switch to another more decent and unbiased newspaper. They can certainly read them online. If you’re watching Rupavahini or ITN news you’re wasting your time. Switch to any other news channel.

via: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-abuse-and-pathetic-state-of-the-state-media/

“The war in Sri Lanka and propaganda debates: An analysis for the OHCHR in Geneva” by Michael Roberts

As a Sri Lankan Australian and academic I have been collecting and analysing the material on the last phase of the war in Sri Lanka for six years now. I come across new evidence regularly in the midst of misinformation and dis-information that is a facet of the propaganda war that has been sharpening since the LTTE began to retreat in 2008. Since the volume of data is huge, a thorough investigation calls for assiduous work by a team which includes those who are culturally competent and able to discern manipulation. They must transcend the clever tactics of misinformation and fabrication from both sides, with the additional awareness that the Tamil migrant networks outdo the government (GSL) on this front by a proverbial mile.

Via http://groundviews.org/…/the-war-in-sri-lanka-and-propagan…/

“Sri Lankan Catholics Urge Pope Francis to Put Off Visit” by Dharisha Bastians

A number of prominent Roman Catholic priests and laypeople in Sri Lanka are appealing to Pope Francis to put off a scheduled visit, saying the government is using the occasion as propaganda to imply the pope’s support for President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking an unprecedented third term in office.

via: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/04/world/asia/sri-lanka-pope-francis-president-mahinda-rajapaksa-election.html?emc=edit_tnt_20141203&nlid=68542801&tntemail0=y&_r=1

“Relevance of Freedom of Association in 1992 and today: Ratawawi Peramuna and its players” by Lakshan Dias

What is the situation today? Freedom of association is under its worst threats in independent Sri Lanka, despite the attempts by state media and “Para state propaganda units” to deny it. Those who supply ideological justification for this government (including some of the Petitioners in Ratawesi Peramuna and who were in fact beneficiaries of the regime) will soon realize that they will one day need to form an association to defend themselves, independent of the state apparatus. People change but principles do not. Probably it is time for us to remember the words of Laurence J. Peter, Canadian educationalist who moved into USA and who published the famous “The Peter Principles”. “The devil could change. He was once an angel and may be evolving still”.

via: http://groundviews.org/2014/07/27/relevance-of-freedom-of-association-in-1992-and-today-ratawawi-peramuna-and-its-players/

“Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels” by Michael Roberts

In sum, the propaganda drive initiated by the LTTE and sustained by an ever-growing body of Tamil and other supporters from late 2008 to the present day has secured astonishing success. It is a monument that exemplifies the methods an organisation can use to fool a wide spectrum of intelligent people all over the world, besides drawing support from powerful agencies in powerful state capitals. This success, no doubt, was aided by arcane forces hidden within such state agencies, but I am no Snowden and cannot dwell on these factors in any useful or intelligent way.

via: http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/

source: groundviews.org

Channel 4 refutes Sri Lankan “propaganda offensive”

Channel 4 News takes the unprecedented step of blasting the lies of the shadowy pro Government of Sri Lanka group “Engage Sri Lanka” out of the waterhttp://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/channel-4-refutes-sri-lankan-propaganda-offensive

source: www.channel4.com


“When Sri Lanka’s bitter civil war came to an end in May of 2009 it drew to a close an era crippled with fear and drenched in blood. No independent journalists were given access to the frontlines during its final stages and while propaganda and misinformation filled the void, the reality on the ground went unrecorded and the war itself went un-witnessed.

That was until three student journalists ventured into Sri Lanka from the UK. Their naivety afforded them access to areas denied to journalists from the BBC or CNN and went further than any had gone before them. They captured everything they saw on 30 hours of DV tapes, audio recordings and over 4,000 photographs.

They were given exclusive access to the IDP Camps of Menik Farm — then the most infamous IDP camps in the world at the time — and walked through the ruins of Kilinochchi — the former Tamil Tiger capital. By the end of their journey they also became the first foreign journalists to witness the aftermath of the final battlegrounds in Mullaitivu and Chalai.

The film is a snapshot of a country at a crossroads, amid diverging narratives in the wake of war. They witness the loss of human dignity for those caught up in the conflict and provide a searing assessment of war reportage at a time when propaganda blurs the line of fact and fiction. This is a story told from their eyes about a journey through a conflict that is in very real danger of being forgotten forever.”

Watch here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTAoXYrOHkg&feature=youtu.be

Source:  Youtube