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Fearing More Violence, Sri Lanka Silences Social Media (nytimes.com)
134 points by panarky 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 106 comments

Sri Lanka’s action “is a damning indictment” of companies that once portrayed the platforms as vehicles for liberation...

Last year, the government briefly blocked social networks after viral rumors and calls to violence, circulating largely on Facebook, appeared to provoke a wave of anti-Muslim riots and lynchings.

Government officials had repeatedly warned Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, that the posts could lead to violence.

Company officials largely failed to respond until the government shut down access, after which they promised to hire more moderators and improve communication.

And from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/world/asia/sri-lanka-expl...

Rather than trusting in Facebook and other companies to police their networks for hate speech or incitement that could arise as a result of Sunday’s attacks, the government was treating the platforms as too dangerous to remain online.

Wow, are we know so scared of mob mentality that we don't condemn brazen free speech interference?

I know social media platforms can create mobs, but since when are we all scared that:

> That digital rights and press freedom advocates might now sympathize, if not agree, with Sri Lanka’s action.

This seems questionable to me, and problematic for people trying to find each other.

I’m a firm believer in free speech and think this is a bad move.

However, there’s a vast difference between targeted censorship of forbidden topics and a temporary blanket ban on certain forms of communication. This isn’t good, but it’s pretty mild. Temporary limits on fundamental freedoms during an emergency are pretty common, even in the good old USA.

Free speech is about the right to __articulate__ opinions and ideas. To articulate ideas and opinions, you have to think and formulate your thoughts.

What Facebook enables and optimizes for can hardly be called free speech. Articulation is not encouraged, merely the spreading of thoughts (both good and bad). Engagement has been optimized for advertising purposes. It led to banal agreement in the form of likes and reshares. There is hardly any discourse, people get silo-ed in echo chambers, and the extreme ends of the spectrum get magnified. Confirmation bias rules, and bad ideas aren't defeated by good ideas because they hardly come into contact.

So no, Facebook isn't enabling free speech, as much as they'd like to claim they are. At best they are a communication tool, nothing more.

Free speech is not only about articulation. It's also about the ability to share, disseminate, and influence others.

Speech without thought isn't free speech. It's just people and sometimes mobs saying things.

Freedom of information flow isn't the same thing. Democracy works best with an informed electorate. Information flow without discourse is just indoctrination. And that's what Facebook (unintendedly) optimizes for.

Speech even without thought is still free speech. You would hope that the most thoughtful speech would be easily recognized and followed in place of its opposite. However, free speech does not exist in a world where only one group decides what is thoughtful speech.

The only speech without thought is tourettes.

And glossolalia, and sleeptalking. Oh, and recitation from memory. Probably some other things.

Depending on your definition of "thought".

>> Speech without thought isn't free speech.

That's a rather strong opening to limiting free speech. Who gets to decide that my speech was without thought? Is there an approval process? Can I repeal the decision? Do I have to document my thoughts before I speak to prove later that I did indeed think before I spoke out against the people that make those distinctions?

Sri Lankan here. I have to agree with this. I'm absolutely against censorship and suppression of free speech, but in this particular instance, it's more like a government grounding all flights because it's a vector for a spreading pandemic. Social media right now is such a vector. I'm certain we prevented a lot of retaliatory bloodshed with the social media blackout and the curfew.

It's not that mild. Still an attempt to stop information government doesn't like from spreading. Still targeted, more broadly, but targeted. Still requires internet censorship infrastructure to even be able to order ISPs to block websites and power, so much power to get there, pretty much dictatorship level power. China, the anti freedom villain, does this kind of thing regularly.

I get why people are making excuses though. Pretty much no political systems in the world can actually exist with truly free speech, because they all rely on controlling free speech to function. And now that actual free speech got out of their control it threatens them and makes them push against it, promoting restrictions to free speech.

There's also the contrarian viewpoint that Facebook is a danger to civilization, and not only ideas that are valued by democracy. The whole thing was built by hijacking the limbic system. And aren't ads much the same? So you can say then, that it was monetized by likewise hijacking the limbic system. Anyway, this is not a good recipe for discourse.

Now they can finagle around with it as much as they like, try to machine-learning this, machine-learning that, but it isn't going to get around that it fundamentally operates by hijacking people's limbic system. And people are ultimately more clever and dastardly than whatever machine-learning they are going to throw at it to try to sanitize the discourse.

It's probably easier to teach yoga/tai chi/meditation/whatever to all of Facebook's users than to fix Facebook.

> Temporary limits on fundamental freedoms during an emergency are pretty common, even in the good old USA.

Exactly. If people are rioting, for example because their football team won the Super Bowl (http://fortune.com/2018/02/05/eagles-win-super-bowl-riot-psy...), the city may impose a curfew to give everyone a chance to cool off. This just sounds like the digital equivalent to me, and while it's unfortunate, it seems like the best solution to the problem.

I'm sure this isn't going to be a popular opinion here, but for most of the people in the world, "free speech" isn't as important as the safety of their loved ones. If most people in the world wanted "democracy" as it is in the United States, they would have chosen it. Or as the Chinese put it, people are much less likely to choose "freedom" if you instead frame it as a responsibility. Are we speaking responsibly?

>If most people in the world wanted "democracy" they would have chosen it.

What the heck is this supposed to mean? What, I suppose that if people in China wanted democracy they could just go and get it? Oh wait, not really, they get silenced, arrested, and massacred... Is there even a place on Earth where a democratic transition was achieved not by force against the holders of power?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athenian_democracy ? The initial implementation doesn't seem to have been very forceful ...

> If most people in the world wanted "democracy" as it is in the United States, they would have chosen it.

Taking power from a non-democratic leadership is incredibly difficult, risky and almost always violent. And non-democratic leadership very rarely self-democratize. Unfortunately, we don't know if much of the world wants democracy as it's aggressively stamped out in many places and illegal to pursue it.

Democracy happened in South Korea and Taiwan, and across all of Western Europe over the course of the 19th century. There are also places that have implemented democratic systems, but the people hardly seem to have benefited. Do you then blame the people for not contributing more to their democracy?

While I agree with you, that it’s difficult, sometimes bloody, and elites almost never give up power voluntarily (isn’t that true even in democracies though?), one can see that it can be done.

Even in “speech,” there is a matter of quality — quality that has been taken for granted in much of the “free” world. It is this quality that is the responsibility of speech.

Now, on topic, another comment on this thread points out quite well that some of our social media platforms are not designed for quality. They were designed to be viral.

Democracy didn't just happen in Korea though, the people didn't choose it, it was done in part with America's interference/help after the end of the war. I agree that democracy isn't going to work everywhere in the world but I don't think it has to do with what people want (whatever that means, the majority?, since everyone has a different opinion...).

I agree with you on the short-comings of social media though, with their algorithms designed to push up the things that make people out-raged (those that go viral the fastest) and enable people to deepen and solidify their beliefs with very narrow curated feeds. These have led to hate crimes all over the world. There is definitely a dangerous element to them that people who harp on about 'free-speech' seem to want to sneer at.

Democracy did not just happened in Europe. It does not happen by itself, without power struggle and fights and right conditions. The ideas that lead to democracy also dont just emerge automatically like something in born.

The fact is, those countries where people "just don't care" happen to be countries that violently suppress opposition. The opposition does not necessary want fairness and freedom, but they want participation on power.

There is always mechanism for fighting out power and ideas - prison or election.

> If most people in the world wanted "democracy" as it is in the United States, they would have chosen it.

And if most poor people didn't want to be poor, they would have chosen to be rich. And if most homeless people wanted to live in homes, they would have chosen it.

I might be wrong but I believe U.S. is the only country has the right to free speech enshrined in the laws. Most countries, including European's, don't have free speech. I'm a firm believer in free speech but it's hard to talk to other countries about it when no one else values it as much as us.

I’ve made this point before: the US government has killed at least one citizen in a drone strike because he was making terrorist propaganda. Free speech, even within the loose limits set in US law is not as clearly guaranteed as you may believe it to be.

Most European countries (would have said "all", but am not sure how to categorize the Vatican and Belorussia) have Free Speech. Just not the extremist version that America favors.

Germany tempers it with the legal doctrine of "practical concordance", where a global maximum over all Basic Rights is sought, not just a local maximum for Free Speech, and all other rights lose.

The Danish constitution (or foundational law) has it.

It's also in the Human Rights convention.

In Europe a few counties has minor limitations on a few sensitive subjects. Don't confuse that for censorship, or free speech restrictions.

> Don't confuse that for censorship, or free speech restrictions.

Why do not those "minor" limitations fall under censorship or free speech restriction?

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. The law states that, “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”.

(Copy pasted from web)

South Africa’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression, and that right has generally been interpreted very liberally.

A big part of why social media websites/apps (FB and WhatsApp) are banned is because they are the central means of communication and agglomeration.

Forcing people to slow down in their ability to react to a massive amount of information/emotion, by letting them sit on for a while may not be a bad idea.

All too often a flurry of incomplete information leads only to a large degree of noise that organically sorts itself out inside of a couple of days.

See: 9/11 Trading Halt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_effects_of_the_Septem...

Giving people time to think and force them to slow down is a proven method to prevent all out chaos.

I don't know about "we", but the Sri Lankan government clearly are. I certainly sympathize.

What would happen if a US president were assassinated now? Several cities burned after Martin Luther King was killed. Lots of LA burned after officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted. And now, with social media? It'd be total chaos.

Not really, social media was there during many of the BLM demonstrations.

People have become less violent over the years and with social media responsible organizers have a better shot at preventing violence.

"I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death (of other people) your right to say it."

There's a reason why we set the bar for prioritizing safety over speech at credible, immediate threat rather than an abstract threat. Effectively every movement or political group has committed acts of violence. Whether its Islamists blowing up marathons or shooting up nightclubs, or right wingers shooting up churches and mosques, or liberals trying to assassinate congressmen at a baseball game. If you look hard enough you can point to deaths or criminality caused by most political speech, and use that as justification for bans.

> liberals trying to assasinate congressmen at a baseball game.

One deranged man not liberals in general. There have been numerous right wingers shooting up churches and mosques and planned parenthood buildings.

You know full well that their post was discussing a more abstract point. Violent extremists exist among all ideologies and groups, and always will.

it just is way out of place compared to the frequency of the other acts of terrorism to the point of being silly to include. it's how people "both sides" things and it's dangerous to the focus of where we should be worrying.

> it's how people "both sides" things and it's dangerous to the focus of where we should be worrying.

I'd say it's the people going "But not MY side!" that we really need to be worrying about here.

I agree both or all sides engage in self-serving agenda and bad policies. Nobody is perfect.

But it is hard not to see that extreme ideology drives the agenda of one or a few sides, while most sides are willing to compromise with reasonable, evidence-based solutions that the ideologists reject outright. It is irresponsible to say in that case that both sides are being unreasonable - that false equivalence promotes an unhealthy stalemate and gives cover to those who blindly delay progress.

There are two ways to take it: the "everybody has been bad" GP used, and "the probability of any one event being X is lower than the rest." For the former, it would make sense to look at how guns are promoted as problem-solvers, and for the latter is worth discussing how group values make a person more likely to inflict firearm injuries. Utility vs. incitement, I suppose.

Even when available date supports such a claim?

Well, the example here was "my side only does this a little, so Not MY Side!"... In other words, the data did not support such a claim.

It's hard to take such a disregard of proportionality seriously.

I think his point stands broadly regardless of the specific example you take issue with. The heyday of radical left wing terrorism in the US was the 60's and 70's


Please see SDS and the Weather Underground, in that case.

perfect. thanks for proving my point. if all you have are some radicals from the 60s and 70s you can't say that liberals are an issue nowadays on the scale that is radical right wing terrorism.

Speaking as someone old enough to remember the Weather Underground, I would not conflate “anti-authoritarianism” with “Liberalism.”

Liberalism in today’s society is stuff like taxing people to pay for health care, or living wages, or supporting the right of workers to unionize.

The Weathermen’s stated political goal was to overthrow U.S. imperialism. That is not something I would lump in the same basket as liberalism.

So I would say that this isn’t an example of liberal thinking at all, whether from the 60s or any other decade. Just because it isn’t “conservative” doesn’t make it liberal, and trying to lump everyone into a false dichotomy is rather Fox News, in my opinion.

I used to love the "US out of North America NOW!" graffiti.

But maybe that was AIM, not Weather Underground.

I'm very pro free speech, but having the ability to discuss ideas on a public platform being temporarily curtailed is only worrying if it's overused.

Does it mean that you are OK with censorship for an arbitrary length of time, as long as it does not reach whatever your definition of "overused" is? It seems like you are OK with censorship as long as it is done at the right time, with the right length. Right being arbitrary and whatever you personally prefer, i.e. it is censorship in my favor, therefore it is good. Please correct me if I am wrong, but to me it reads as: "as long as it is in my favor".

> This seems questionable to me, and problematic for people trying to find each other.

People here are finding each other through traditional point-to-point comms -- SMS and phone calls. The social media blackout probably saved lives today and prevented a lot of retaliatory bloodshed.

The most commonly used social platform is whatsapp in Sri Lanka, they have only blocked media, It is possible to exchange messages but not download photos or videos without a VPN.

This seems more like a failure of those platforms to be honest. If they could actually moderate the content and not allow incitement, which is illegal in some jurisdictions, I don't think there would be any problems. After all, they do moderate it to some extent since there is no CP, drug markets, etc.

Agreed that a social media ban makes contacting people more difficult, but not impossible(voice,txt,email,forums).

Recent amplification of fake news and violence(30+ deaths attributed) on social media in India probably plays a big factor, as does last year’s anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka.

I've been travelling in foreign countries where it felt like political tensions could be cut with a knife.

And in those moments, "everyone" is heads down into their smartphones. Just thumb scrolling and looking for anything that reinforces their beliefs.

Sounds like you just accurately described the United States in 2019, as well. Any country undergoing political turmoil is in a similar boat, and sadly probably always will be. The technological means will just continue to evolve.

Or 2016...

Or just about any year of your choosing. Today it's phones, before then it was newspapers, before then it was the town square, before then it was the village crier, before then it was the guy that talked to spirits/gods/sky, and so on...

This is not a new thing.

This seems like a bad move for both moral and practical reasons.

Morally, free communication is a basic human right.

Practically, having a bunch of churches/hotels attacked by an easily-identifiable group, followed by shutting off communications tools, would probably turn people from "death squad curious" into hardcore whatever the local version of hacking your enemies apart with a machete is (parang?). A reasonable but scared person might assume the attacks are of a larger scale, or supported or condoned by the government, or otherwise an ongoing event, rather than a tragic event which happened and is now over and could be left to policy solutions. I know if 9/11 or something like that had happened and then the USG had immediately tried to institute a communications blackout (except for state controlled broadcast media), a lot of people I know would be very on-edge.

Sri Lanka has a history of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp amplifying racial hatred, riots and lynchings.

They don't trust that Facebook has effectively neutralized a force that is tearing their civilization apart.

If Facebook created a monster that they can no longer control, what else should governments do to protect their citizens?

The monster exists in their people, not Facebook. I’m no fan of the company but it’s not reasonable to say it’s something wrong they’ve done.

Who the hell advocatea violence? Let alone in such large numbers?! Sri Lanka has a deeper problem.

Facebook's signature feature is that it's viral. It amplifies ideas and emotions.

And it's most effective at amplifying negative ideas and emotions like rumor, gossip, fear and hate.

Of course the root cause is people. But before Facebook, the bad stuff was slow to spread, and geographically localized.

Facebook released an accelerant, a catalyst into the world. And Facebook has lost control of the monster it created.

Human beings can't be trusted with the power to communicate among themselves?

> Human beings can't be trusted with ...

Very few items could fill in this blank to make a true statement:

"Every human should be trusted with unrestricted and amplified _____________."

If you create a superhuman thing and release it into the world, you damn well better control it.

Dangerous human beings can't be trusted.

Preventing rapid spread of misinformation is important in some extreme scenarios. Especially when social media platforms amplify sensation over facts. Also the same rules as the developed world don't apply elsewhere in the developing world.

Preventing spread of misinformation is good, but preventing the spread of "information" in a context where people are already sensitized could be worse. It depends on whether people will assume censorship/blackout means something negative, and whether the communications tool is actually needed to organize the responsive violence. It depends on the specific culture/society.

Its worth it when its gonna prevent deaths because of propaganda. In India, its a main source of misinformation and it has caused numerous deaths. For example in last month's deadly Pulwama attack which killed 40+ soldiers in an attack by a terrorist in Kashmir, Right wing Hindu extremist groups started spreading misinformation saying that "Kashmiris all over the country are celebrating the death of soldiers." They shared old photos of random kashmiris being happy. This let to multiple attacks on the kashmiris all over the country. This is exactly what needs to be prevented from ever happening again. I'm willing to give away social media for a few days if its gonna save some fellow countrymen's lives no matter if they're innocent or not. Please understand the context.

trouble is that social network helps misinformation spreading at a faster rate than "good" information.

Initial misinformation, is usually quite widespread before any correction is issued, and even then correction usually get less spread ( mostly because people who have been spreading misinformation would not admit that they are wrong ).

Also blocking, muting and bubble effect contribute to wrong information staying in the same sphere.

Not all media is state owned, not blocking social media could lead to more fake news being spread by the extremist groups to incite violence. News broadcasted on TV comes later than the updates on social media but its due to the validating the sources. The news media havent held back on reporting information where its proven to be true, even showing documents that are clearly against the government

I’m happy to defer to others with more relevant regional cultural ground truth.

But it’s my understanding that social media, specifically WhatsApp, has been accused of amplifying fake news and violence in India, resulting in reduced sharing limits to mitigate against malignant virility.

14 months ago there were anti Muslim riots in Sri Lanka and more recently major Bangladesh/Myanmar Muslim refugee crisis.

If I was running security in Sri Lanka I would also consider a temporary shut down or throttling of social media to mitigate the amplification of sectarian violence.

This is a real tragedy, especially when looked at in perspective with the incredibly violent, costly, and lengthy Sri Lankan Civil War.

When looked at thru the lens of having followed the Sri Lankan Civil War at a distance, the extreme violence(suicide bomber was “invented there) and urban terrorism was a near constant.

This is a horrible tragedy that I hope Sri Lankan can contain and prevent viral escalation.

If you are following the Indian election I found an interesting article yesterday about how bots are being deployed on social media to influence that contest.


Unfortunately, Sri Lanka has a long history of violence even before the age of social media: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_Civil_War

And sporadic community-based strife prior to that, beginning certainly no later than the first millennium AD.

I read all so far comments, I don't think that blocking social media is to silence voices and block freedom of speech. I strongly believe (from a crowd-control/security standpoint) that eliminating social media, whatsapp, signal, etc, the hidden communication channels are removed.

So if the government knows that e.g. Henry Bemis is a known trouble-maker, it is easier to monitor his phonecalls, emails, SMS and find out what are his next steps of this bomber/terrorist/whatever. If Henry Bemis is using Signal, WhatsApp, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, etc. it is easier to coordinate the next steps of an attack, awaken sleepers etc. without the government's security forces to be able to react equally fast.

Typical counter-terrorism stuff (or I just have a wild imagination).

I'm not sure how well one can justify the claim that blocking social media is an effective means to prevent violence. As one example, people highlight the role that social media has played in religiously motivated violence in India. But violence has been worse without social media, no one can pin the blame for the 2002 Gujarat riots (perhaps better called a pogrom) on social media.

> So if the government knows that e.g. Henry Bemis is a known trouble-maker, it is easier to monitor his phonecalls, emails, SMS and find out what are his next steps of this bomber/terrorist/whatever. If Henry Bemis is using Signal, WhatsApp, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, etc. it is easier to coordinate the next steps of an attack, awaken sleepers etc. without the government's security forces to be able to react equally fast.

So in other words, the elimination of social media's primary value lies not in the fact that it stops speech that calls for violence, but in the fact that it enhances the government's ability to conduct population-wide surveillance. So your underlying point is that better government surveillance is what stops violence, and elimination of social media serves to enhance government surveillance.

This might apply to "traditional" terrorism, that is centrally organized and coordinated. This is however not how most terrorism seems to work these days. Instead, we have something that's been called "stochastic terrorism". Messages calling for violence are spread by people, perhaps deliberately in the hope of someone acting upon them. Given a large enough reach of the message and enough people willing to commit these acts, this quickly becomes something incredibly hard to fight. I'm not sure about it's efficacy, but turning off social media is certainly not a completely invalid way to attempt to prevent more of that happening.

If preventing "stochastic terrorism" was the reason they turned off social media, shouldn't they have done it before the bombs exploded, possibly even before any of the terrorists used it, and not afterwards?

The multiple bombings that occurred in Sri Lanka hardly seem "stochastic".

Terrorism doesn't require hidden communication channels. But it is actually propaganda, usually foreign, so governments feel threatened by it and naturally want to block it. If they can't, they can decide to block the next best thing, i.e. uncontrollable mass communication channels. Censorship in its pure form, not counter terrorism.

In the cases of events, e.g. bombing a church, paramedics, firemen are easy targets/sitting ducks. Being able to block coordination of further attacks is important. The hidden channels is not to silence the propaganda. That will never happen. But communicating to a vast network of perpetrators that "I just saw the army driving to location ABC, therefore we do the round 2 attack in location XYZ".

I am never in favor of censorship. I am merely stating that I understand a potential use under these circumstances. I don't agree. I just undertand the reasoning.

You are not describing a terror attack then. The point of terrorism is propaganda.

I’m not for what they did, but this comment is to expand your idea.

You forgot to think about the people they don’t know about right now. I’m presuming they’re freaking the F out right now and are worried about unknown cells and their communications.

So... in the moment, decision was to make unknown cells communications more difficult by disabling low hanging fruit.

So should we, say, ban encryption or at the very least online messaging applications that offer end-to-end encryption because someone might use it for "something bad", or to hide something from the government, all this in the name of fighting against terrorism?

>A growing body of research has linked social media to religious and racial violence.

>Social media platforms build their businesses on sophisticated algorithms that serve up content that will keep users engaged. This favors posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger and fear, studies suggest.

I think governments, and researchers, are going to find that censoring social media doesn't have as large an effect as they imagine. Most of it is noise anyway. Buzz buzz.

It is noise, but the noise is fuel on a fire sometimes.

The article does link to a couple papers which I have not read yet, but have added to my list.

I'd love a link to the most current review of evidence on social media and crime.

Surely there are some decent natural experiments by now. Is any jurisdiction doing RCTs?

It just goes to show that governments are going to censor when they feel like it. If your only contact with someone is through social media then you'd have no way to contact them to find out if they're okay.

On the other hand, I can understand short term temporary shutdowns to try to stop further violence, but that's not what Sri Lanka is doing in this case.

"Last year, the government briefly blocked social networks after viral rumors and calls to violence, circulating largely on Facebook, appeared to provoke a wave of anti-Muslim riots and lynchings.

Government officials had repeatedly warned Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, that the posts could lead to violence."

Sri Lanka isn't trying prevent people from communicating with each other or censorship. Sounds like they've been bitten by social media-driven violence in the past, which wouldn't be the first country to see this phenomenon (Myanmar).

It's so easy to assume a corrupt government motive here, but we've seen ethnic violence perpetuated on social media in the past. What's a government supposed to do when that happens?

Myanmar is not a typical example: social media drove violence, but social media was being manipulated by the army:


>What's a government supposed to do when that happens?

If people perpetuate ethnic violence through cell phones, does the government ban phones? If people perpetuate ethnic violence through speaking, will the government ban speaking?

I wonder what would happen if they went back to a strictly chronological feed, instead of one optimized for "engagement"? Sure, it wouldn't eliminate any of the hate, but it also wouldn't deliberately concentrate it at the top of the page. People would still see "KILL THEM ALL," but the selfies and cat memes mixed in might put things in perspective.

How does the block work on a technical level?

Did they just nicely ask Facebook to geo-IP block their whole country, and Facebook agreed voluntarily?

Is there some legal process, where Facebook's under threat of having money/property in the country seized and/or employees in the country arrested if they don't comply?

Or are they doing it without Facebook's assistance? Do they have government-controlled routers that can blackhole specific DNS queries or IP address ranges? Or put their ISP's under threat of some legal process to implement the same?

How do we make the Internet more robust against the specific attack launched by the government? Or should governments always be able to shut down sites they don't like, when they judge it necessary?

One part of me hopes that governments keep doing this every time there's as much as a bad mugging, so that people will stop relying on the ability of their government-controlled ISP and a US-controlled cloud platform to communicate with each other and maybe try some new P2P technology, or possibly just talk to each other in person instead.

Then again, this is wishful thinking. The only reason the Sri Lankan government has to resort to such a drastic and ham-fisted measure is that they don't yet have the clout or connection to call their friends at Google, Facebook, & Twitter and say "immediately shadowban this set of keywords" like the US and EU can.

Disappointing to see that this is one of the first tools a government reaches for in a crisis. It's one of the worst possible responses because of how well censorship plays into the hands of skilled extremists.

While they're at it, they might want to ban whatever the people who committed the acts of violence against the churches were using.

I just wish people used this flash-mob-forming capability for good more often than evil. :-/

I don't think it's hardly exploited enough!

It says a lot about Facebook’s low standing that a lot of people, myself included, are generally OK with it being blocked during emergencies.


From what I have been reading previously (and I am NOT trying to make this political/religious), Buddhists have been slaying Muslims. Now Christians are targeted.

I have served my country's army. I am always in favor to be targeted in a terrorist attack, that having unarmed, untrained civilians be targeted. Against me a 'terrorist' (burgler, gunman, etc.) has significanly less chances to survive. Attacking Churches (today), Mosques (a month ago) and shooting unarmed civilians is plain cowardness.

To make sure you get my comment. I am against all types of violence. But having served, and having been trained to kill and survive, I believe that someone armed, and in uniform is 'fair game' in a military conflict.

Unarmed civilians are never 'fair game'.


> bombings of Christian churches ... happens in nearly every country with a Christian minority around Easter

That's quite a claim. How many examples can you think of?


That's still a long way from being "nearly every country with a Christian minority".


I couldn’t find anything for Indonesia.

Well, this year there's heightened security because of past attacks: https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesian-churches-tighten-eas...

And yes, doing a quick Google search brings up a Christmas attack and another a month after Easter. As I said, attacks on churches are common enough that lots of info gets drowned out.

And yet they still feel the need to have thousands of security troops guard churches this year.

"The extraordinary step reflects growing global concern, particularly among governments, about the capacity of American-owned networks to spin up violence."

"Officials blocked the platforms, he said, out of fear that misinformation about the attacks and hate speech could spread, provoking more violence."

Good, a step in the right direction and finally officials are connecting the dots on this. I know HN hates to hear this but this is long overdue. It's my view that the executives in charge of these social networks should face criminal prosecution for their supreme negligence and wildly irresponsible behavior, allowing extremism to spread and hateful ideologies to flourish in the name of increasing quarterly engagement metrics. Free speech has little to do with this.

Social media is a fertile breeding ground for hate and a powerful recruitment tool for extremists. I doubt we're able to sort through all the FUD and misinformation, concerted and successful efforts to dictate public opinion and change narratives to suit whatever special interests or political agendas. We're truly in the post-truth era, with the power in the hands of a few SV elite and billionaire aristocrats. From everything I've seen I don't see mankind sorting this out before it's too late for all of us. Social media is the great filter.

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