The Sri Lankan government has accused Facebook of not acting swiftly enough to take down and counter posts that the government says have inflamed passions among Buddhist hardliners in the country who have been instigating mobs to attack Muslims and destroy their homes and businesses. The government has now moved to block many social media platforms.
The Sri Lankan government has accused Facebook of failing to control rampant hate speech that it says contributed to anti-Muslim riots last week that left three people dead and the country under a state of emergency.
As mobs of hardline Buddhists rioted and lit fires in towns in the central district of Kandy, Facebook, WhatsApp and several other platforms were blocked across the Indian Ocean island.
Harin Fernando, the Sri Lankan telecommunications minister, said the government had taken the unprecedented step in response to fears that widely circulated videos claiming to show mosques and Buddhist temples being torched would ignite further violence.
On Tuesday, he highlighted a tweet from a user who claimed to have reported a Facebook post in the Sinhala language that read, “Kill all Muslims, don’t even let an infant of the dogs escape.”
The extremist leader Amith Weerasinghe, who was arrested last week in Kandy after being accused of helping to instigate the violence, had amassed nearly 150,000 followers on his Facebook page before it was taken down last week.
Posts by other extremists that remain online include calls for Buddhist rioters to “hit them [Muslims] as hard as you can”, while another, by an activist who was arrested last November for targeting Rohingya refugees, promises groups will be going “from town to town to safeguard the future of the unborn Sinhala race”.
Sri Lanka seems to lurch from one conflict to another, fueled by the usual toxic mix of religious fervor and ethnic nationalism. Politicians have long fanned those flames to gain power but then act shocked when mobs act on their words. Those in the US who support Trump who uses those same tactics should learn from the example of other countries where they have been used.
But of course they will not learn the lesson. Such people never do.