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A coordinated series of attacks against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka this morning has killed at least 200 people, and injured at least 450 more. In response to the attack, the Sri Lankan government has restricted access to a number of social media sites, including Facebook, Whatsapp, and Youtube, according to local media and monitoring site Netblocks (via The New York Times).
The site says that the government appears to have blocked Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, and YouTube, and authorities have issued a curfew in the country. Presidential advisor Harindra Dassanayake told The New York Times that “this was a unilateral decision,” and was done over concerns that the attacks would trigger additional waves of widespread misinformation, hate speech, and violence. It is not immediately clear when the ban will be lifted.
The move isn’t unprecedented in the country, which last year saw riots fueled by misinformation on Facebook, and which temporarily banned sites.
The move comes as Facebook and other social media platforms have come under scrutiny in recent years over their roles in the spread of misinformation and hoaxes that fuel violence, and the company has admitted that its efforts to contain such problems has fallen short in places like Myanmar, and countries like India have proposed new rules to try and force companies to do more to combat the problem.