Why Sri Lanka Silenced Social Media

A crime scene official inspects the site of a bomb blast inside a church in Negombo

A crime scene official inspects the site of a bomb blast inside a church in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. – RC1BA6A7AE90

Source: The Atlantic


Today the Sri Lankan government named a culprit in Sunday’s coordinated bomb blasts, which killed almost 300 people at Easter services and in hotels in multiple cities. The group, called National Thowheeth Jama’ath, is a local variation on a jihadist theme, and according to the very sparse dossiers on it from before yesterday, it focused on desecrating Buddhist statues. Blowing up churches and hotels—in an attack more spectacular and well coordinated than anything Sri Lanka’s better-known terror group, the Tamil Tigers, ever accomplished—elevates the group to a new class of villain, similar in intent and scale to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. The name, a peculiar mix of English and oddly transliterated Arabic, means National Monotheism [or Unity] Group. (One clue to its ideology, which may or may not be significant, is the word national: The Islamic State rejects nationalism on principle, so either the group is not IS-linked, or it needs a new name.)

That is all I know, and indeed all anyone knows. It is normal not to know much after massacres like these. But in this case, the ignorance feels greater than usual, and even well-informed observers of Sri Lanka sound baffled. Compounding the general lack of knowledge is a snap decision by the Sri Lankan government: no social media in Sri Lanka, not until the authorities figure out what happened, and can be confident in their ability to avert mass panic.

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Categories: Asia, Social Media, Sri Lanka

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