Facebook gave no pledges despite Sri Lanka claims

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Facebook gave no pledges despite Sri Lanka claims

The Sri Lankan government today lifted a week-long ban on access to the Facebook, after officials from the U.S. social media giant agreed to step up efforts to remove hate speech posted on its platform during the anti-Muslim violence in Kandy district.

However, the government had previously insisted that it will not unblock access to Facebook unless it agreed to faster reviews of complaints of hate speech posts.

"We are responding to the situation in Sri Lanka and are in contact with the government and non-governmental organisations to support efforts to identify and remove such content", a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

Facebook had merely pointed out that its policies against hate speech and incitement were clearly outlined in its community standards. "Instead of blocking social media, the government should be using it as a communication tool", said Obeyesekere, a barrister and political scientist.

Ratnayake said the social media ban makes a negative impact on a wide range of industries.

"The government is trying to suppress anti-government sentiments by bringing new laws to social media platforms", said Jayasena.

Atul Keshap, U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, said on Twitter that the longer the social media ban persists, the greater the damage to tourism, business, the IT field and the nation's reputation for freedom and openness.

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Social Media must start functioning so that the economy doesn't suffer.

However, UNP, the dominant partner of the ruling coalition, said it would not fight against the social media blockage.

"The government must act immediately to remove the ban on social media and instead focus on holding to account those responsible for hate speech and inciting violence under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said although the UNP was not in agreement they have decided "to keep quiet".

Sri Lanka blocked the social network after police warned online hate speech was fuelling violence as mosques and Muslim businesses were burned in a week of unrest, mainly in central Sri Lanka, that left at least three people dead.

Fernando said the UNP was against Sirisena's order to block the Lankaenews website since last November, but the party understands that Sirisena has reasons to do so.

A state of emergency was announced and the Internet services arrested completely in Kandy, the most terribly hit central district, for numerous days in the previous week as regulators sought to suspend the unrests.

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