Week in Review: March 16, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

Sri Lanka halts ban on social media

Sri Lanka ended its week long social media ban on Facebook this Thursday, reports Reuters. Sri Lanka, which imposed a nationwide state of emergency following mob attacks targeting its Muslim minority, previously blocked access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Viber as part of an effort to counter disinformation and violence, reports The New York Times.

A Sri Lankan government spokesperson in an interview with The New York Times describes how false information spread on social networks:

“‘Some attacks that have actually not taken place are being reported. It spreads that we are being attacked and we have to respond,’ said Mr. Dassanayake. In some cases, people were also sharing information on how to make simple bombs, he said.’”

The Sri Lankan Telecommunication Minister cited Facebook's slow response to instances of hate speech as the cause for the block.

In a New York Times op-ed on the issue, Rohan Samarajiva, chairman of an ICT policy think-tank in Sri Lanka, argues that the Facebook ban amounted to "a digital curfew" which set a bad precedent for free expression and, while recognizing Facebook’s steps towards hiring Sinhala-speaking moderators, that the platform should play a more active role in filtering hate speech and violent content.

China censors viral video of reporter’s eye-roll

A video of a reporter's dramatic eye-roll turned heads this week, becoming viral on Chinese social media before facing censorship on the social media platform Weibo. An NPR report of the incident explains:

 “Liang Xiangyi, a young financial news reporter, was so disgusted on Tuesday by a fellow reporter's three-part softball question to a government official at this week's National People's Congress that she was caught on live television rolling her eyes, looking the questioner up and down in disbelief and then finally turning away.”

 Soon after, the video clip went viral, sparking a number of parodies and memes . The New York Times reported that those memes were later deleted by government censors and the reporter’s name censored on Weibo. Liang’s news organization has since revoked her accreditation to cover the National People’s Congress.

Bali plans 24-hour Internet shutdown for holiday

Bali will suspend Internet services this Saturday for Nyepi, or Balinese New Year, a holiday for self-reflection in which many shops and services close, reports The Guardian. Connections will still be available for strategic services, while mobile Internet providers will shut down all non-essential public services, reports Business Times.

Quoted in the Guardian article,the Balinese governor Made Pastika downplayed the need for Internet access, claiming that he would turn off his devices as well. According to the BBC, the shutdown came at the request of religious and civil leaders in the police and the military and that the yearly shutdown would be the norm.