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International Relations

President seeks Chinese assistance in social media monitoring?

President Maithripala Sirisena has reportedly sought Chinese assistance in locating individuals who propagate misinformation on social networking sites.

According to the Government’s official news portal news.lk, Sirisena raised the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a meeting held at the latter’s residence in Beijing yesterday.

Between discussions on defence cooperation and intelligence sharing, Sirisena has reportedly briefed his Chinese counterpart on Sri Lanka’s lack of resources and technical expertise in “tracing individuals who are fanning the flames of terrorism by propagating false information through social media.”

News.lk reported that Xi had agreed to provide the “necessary technological expertise and equipment immediately”. A Chinese technical team is also expected to arrive in Sri Lanka to “look into the matter”.

The Government of Sri Lanka first imposed a temporary block on social media in March 2018 in the wake of the communal clashes that erupted in Digana, Kandy. Since the Easter Sunday bombings, Sri Lanka has been sporadically blocking social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as instant-messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Viber to quell the spread of rumours.

The Chinese government exercises one of the most expansive internet censorship programmes in the world. Notorious for blocking a number of internationally popular social networking sites, Beijing is also known for monitoring individual internet users, earning it the nickname ‘the Great Firewall of China’.