Sri Lanka blocks social media to stop sectarian violence

Step taken after anti-Muslim unrest erupts in Chilaw and Kuliyapitiya towns.
ANKARA: Sri Lanka on Monday blocked social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp to deter spread of rumors.

According to a Colombo-based newspaper Daily Mirror, the step was taken after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the unrest since Easter bombings by militants.

“The decision to ban social media sites had been taken in an effort to stop the spread of rumors following the violence that erupted in Chilaw and Kuliyapitiya towns on [Sunday] evening,” the newspaper reported, quoting the statement issued by the Sri Lankan government information department.

Sri Lanka’s leading mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata Plc informed its users on twitter that it had received instructions to block the apps like Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube as well, until further notice.

Tensions escalated in Buddhist-majority country after over 250 people were killed in Easter Sunday terror attacks in April in Colombo. Most of the victims were Christians.

Chilaw, a Catholic-majority town, is almost 80 kilometers north of the capital Colombo.

The police had to impose curfew in the town on Sunday following “tense situation”.

Reports said that violence erupted in the area after a resident “misunderstood” a Facebook post as a threat against Christians.

The person whose Facebook post is under investigation has been arrested.

Sri Lankan Army fired shots to disperse a mob which stormed Muslim properties in the Chilaw town following the Facebook post.

While curfew was lifted early Monday morning, there was no letup in the tension.

“All the shops in the town are closed due to the situation and the security has been tightened,” the newspaper report said.–AA

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