Will Sri Lanka Ban Facebook? President Rajapaksa Calls it a ‘Disease’

Will Sri Lanka ban Facebook? We don’t know yet. But talks of a banning the social networking site in Sri Lanka have intensified over the last few weeks.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently called social networking site Facebook a ‘Disease’ which was affecting the younger generation, according to a new report from Sri Lanka.

He was speaking at a school earlier this month, the Tamil Guardian reported.

The President’s remarks have been questioned in the Lankan parliament by the opposition. Leader of the opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe asked the Government earlier this month if the Government was planning to ban Facebook. Sri Lankan government’s Chief whip told the parliament that the government had not taken any such decision.

Under Rajapaksa’s government which came to power for a second terms in 2010, Sri Lanka came out of a bitter civil war. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist organisation which demanded the creation of a Tamil state, was defeated in May 2009.

Rajapaksa was quoted as saying “This is a disease for us, this is a disease for our children.” He also said that while Facebook can’t be trusted, blocking the site would be illegal.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, President, Sri Lanka
Mahinda Rajapaksa, President, Sri Lanka

Srilankan News aggregator The Republic Square said that Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is also the presidents brother said that Social Media was a threat to national security as it propagates certain ideologies online. Facebook has over 1.5 million users in Srilanka.

In March last year, a documentary on the cold blooded murder of LTTE Chief’s 12 year old son went viral on the Internet and led to public outcry against the Rajapaksa administration.

Taking Cues from India?

President Rajapaksa’s views are very similar to the views aired by many Indian ministers after an incident termed “the North East exodus.”

In August last year, doctored images showing gun toting monks from the north east, killing Muslims, began doing the rounds on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Soon, text messages threatening a Muslim retaliation against people from the north eastern states began doing the rounds. This led to widespread exodus of people of North Eastern origin from across the country back to their homeland.

The Indian government came out with a 43 page report and blamed Pakistani groups behind the false propaganda. Talks of monitoring Facebook and other social media sites intensified in India after these incidents.

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