The government has been accused of attempting to police the internet via the online safety bill that has been approved by the cabinet and gazetted.

Colombo university’s senior lecturer on media Dr. Pradeep N. Weerasinghe elaborated on this issue during ‘Artha’ programme of VAPA Television recently.

He explained local and international aspects of internet regulation and the related technological, socioeconomic political realities.

Weerasinghe challenged the freedom of expression as contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the conduct of internet giants and social media activists.

He said the internet and social media have taken the place of the one-time most powerful electronic media and are implementing their political, business and personal agendas in a stronger way.

This has created an upper hand for them in sociopolitical and economic spheres, relegating citizens to be the victims, he said.

Weerasinghe argued that the ideology of the powerful groups in society has come to be further established in the social media space.

They are spreading false news, misinformation, making personal attacks, building and destroying images etc. for personal gain.

Traditional media had 50 owners of institutions controlling the information market, but now that place has been taken by five persons via social media, he said.

An analysis was also made about attempts and outcomes at internet regulation in Russia, US, UK, Australia and Germany.

Social media is giving maximum space for the expression of opinion to create an active citizen, but at the same time, its algorithm technology invades privacy, allows misuse for business objectives, encourages violence, harassment, attitudes, pretext etc., he said.

In this scenario, instead of regulating the internet and social media, what should be done as a lasting and democratic solution is empowering citizens with social media literacy, said Weerasinghe.

He noted that a national level empowerment programme, expansion of fact-checking avenues and the appointment of an independence complaints commission to ensure justice for victims would be the steps in the right direction.

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