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Regulating social media in Sri Lanka: Formal and alternative mechanisms

The regulation of hate speech and disinformation on social media has become a global challenge for states, private bodies, regulatory bodies, policymakers, media and civil society. In Sri Lanka, current legal provisions within the formal regulatory framework cover social media. However, over the past few years, there have been many incidents of ethnic and religious violence in the country that involved or were due to the spread of hate speech and disinformation on social media platforms.

DRI Sri Lanka’s latest report looks at the regulation of social media in Sri Lanka, which encompasses both a formal and alternative regulatory framework. The study specifically analyses these frameworks in relation to hate speech and disinformation. Under the formal regulatory framework, it outlines the relevant domestic laws and regulations that cover hate speech and disinformation on social media in Sri Lanka. It then discusses the alternative regulatory framework as a complementary mechanism and looks at three specific alternative mechanisms for social media regulation: voluntary self-regulation by social media companies, independent industry-level regulatory mechanisms, and counter-messaging and ethical engagement by civil society.

The report contends that such alternative mechanisms should operate as complementary to the formal regulatory framework. Particularly given the unique challenges posed by content in Sinhala and Tamil languages, a combination of mechanisms is needed. The study also identifies stakeholders and presents recommendations to effectively address hate speech and disinformation on social media through both the formal and alternative frameworks.

The study will be published soon, and include information up to July 2020.