Watch out – power threat on Social Media
Posted on March 16th, 2018

Social Media may well be the new hope of strength of the Yahapalana powers. The big talk today is about the need to control Social Media and curb the use of Hate Speech on the networks of this new media spread.

Just as whatever the Russians did with their nerve agent Novichok that is said to have been used to attack former secret service agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and a British police officer at Salisbury, UK, enabling British Prime Minister Theresa May to push aside all her problems, including attacks from Tory backbenches, and even threats to her office over Brexit, it looks like the situation of the recent violence in the Kandy District has given a huge opportunity to the Yahapalanaya leaders to cover up their weaknesses, and growing unpopularity.

They must be offering many poojas of thanks to the old colonial masters for showing how they can use the tragedy in and around Kandy, to push aside unpopularity with the use of Social Media as the new source of power, just as Theresa May uses Vladimir Putin and nerve agent Novichok to get over her unpopularity.

For most of our 70 years of independence, we have been under the censorship of the main media – print, radio, and later TV, under various States of Emergency, by both UNP and SLFP-led governments. Our media and journalists had to face Competent Authorities, who were ready with their red ink pens to cut and chop copy whether on trade union issues and strikes, youth uprising with violence, ethnic and communal violence, and later through three decades of war against terror.

We are now moving to new area of the control of Free Expression –the control of Social Media, and it is coming as the reach of the Internet gets wider, and there is increasing use of Social Media by sections of the population that goes far beyond the reach of the regular print, radio and TV media.

What have the users of social media said or done with regard to the cause or spread of the violence in Kandy, and the related ethno-religious rivalry or confrontations? Nothing has been said. All we know is what officials and politicians say about the danger that social media posed at the time, and the need to ban networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber. It certainly showed all the power the President of Yahapalanaya holds in wielding censorship, but nothing at all of what exactly these networks did that were wrong or dangerous.

There is no question that some users of these networks may have misused the networks, and possibly very dangerously. There is also the possibility that other users would have sent messages of peace, unity, and reconciliation, including what some Buddhist monks actively did to shelter Muslims and prevent further violence. So what exactly is Hate Speech on Social Media, when there is hardly any definition or explanation of Hate Speech on regular media, or among politicians? Just look back at the recent local government poll campaign. Do you recall the vehement speeches by President Sirisena, threatening through his sword of power against all his opponents – in and out of government- yes over corruption? What happens about such speech, if reported on social media? When considering new controls over a new area of media that our people are rapidly getting used to for personal communication, advertising, and business, as well as the new area of blogging that many journalists are engaged in, there must surely be a very satisfactory way of controlling it, especially by people who are ready to threaten the use of the ‘madu valigey’ or the ‘bala kaduva’ – the sword of power.

It is good to remember that those who are calling for controls on social media today, and those who were in power from the time of the killing of Richard de Zoysa ad many other journalists under the UNP, and later the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga, attacks on several other journalists, and the unknown story of Prageeth Eknaligoda. These are the people who reigned in Cabinets in the White Van days, who were silent about those vans. It must be mentioned that these include the powerful figures of the Pohottuva, too.

The Government may try to win popularity by telling us about the need to control Social Media. They do need something to at least regain some popularity. But, would the new controls on Social Media mean blocking the reportage o f corruption in government? Will these networks be free to talk of the huge commission earned by ministers and political catchers in the dirty record of ‘ayapath palanaya’?

Will Social Media be accused of spreading hate speech if they make a good laugh of the ‘Wi-Fi’ promises of a shaky Prime Minister? Will these networks be wrong to highlight the crooked activities in areas of education and agriculture, or highlight the commission earned from an unoccupied and rented building for the Agriculture Ministry – bringing a huge crop of profit to the minister?

It is time for caution. Social Media is a new area of activity. It would need controls, as any other of communication would. But, one cannot let a government, whose members have huge and ugly records of attacking the Freedom of Expression, from Richard de Zoysa to Lasantha Wickrematunga and later, to have a completely free hand in even the necessary control of this Media.

Such controls could be a new zone of the popularity or management ability of the government. But popularity or management ability of Government must not be allowed to threaten Freedom of Expression. Watch out Social Media!

3 Responses to “Watch out – power threat on Social Media”

  1. Christie Says:

    The Kandy game is another Indian job. Nanasara appears with Sirisena in Japan.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    FAKE BOOK eken balaya allagath Yamapalanaya

    FAKE BOOK eken gedarayawai kiyala bayawela!

    Yamapalayakeni, mewa pala-dena baila
    Mewa FAKE BOOK ekayma liya ganilla!

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    Live by the FAKE BOOK. Die by the FAKE BOOK!

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