Some form of patrolling of social media is necessary to prevent the spread of hate speech in the country, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe insisted yesterday.
Speaking at the ceremony to induct U.R. de Silva, P.C. as the 24th president of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Premier Wickremesinghe said this was necessary following the recent communal unrest in Gintota, Ampara and Kandy.
“Unfortunately, the last few years have seen the emergence of a hate culture. A hate culture that is being spread via social media, in which the Muslims have been targeted,” he stressed.
In the wake of the violence in Kandy, the Government is now seriously looking at legislation to take action against the spread of hate speech through social media. “The Attorney General’s Department and we are talking on this,” he added.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe making a point during his speech at the induction ceremony of the new Bar Association President, U.R. de Silva (left)
Mr Wickremesinghe, though, acknowledged that defining what exactly constitutes ‘hate speech’ is controversial. Issues such as defining hate speech and demarking the boundaries of hate speech and freedom of expression, were issues that needed to be worked on. He revealed that the Government was studying existing legislation regarding hate speech, in several countries, including Singapore, the UK, Canada and Australia.
“Even if legislation is enacted, enforcement may well be a problem,” he said, adding that some of the countries which have brought laws to regulate hate speech on social media, have only successfully conducted a couple of prosecutions, while others have had none.
Mr Wickremesinghe asked the BASL to contribute to the ongoing dialogue by giving its input as to what constitutes hate speech.
He pledged the Government would take action to bring all perpetrators of violence, to justice, and accepted that the violence in Kandy, though confined to a small area, took far too long to control. He also said investigations would be conducted regarding the conduct of the police during the violence.
Addressing issues regarding the functioning of the courts system, the PM said the Government was committed to the digitization of the court system. “The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure will be involved in the matter. The intention is to first digitize records and data in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal,” he further said.
Addressing the gathering, Chief Justice Priyasath Dep urged the BASL to maintain the integrity and independence of the Bar. AG Jayantha Jayasuriya noted that, of the 20,000 BASL members, 70% of members have less than 20 years experience, while 50% has less than 10 years experience. “It is important to ensure that the aspirations and expectations of this young generation is met with.”
BASL President U.R. de Silva P.C. pledged to fully support the digitisation efforts of the court system. He also appealed to the AG to take urgent steps to ensure that instructions from the AG’s Department are given promptly with regard to court cases, pointing out that many suspects were spending long periods in remand custody, due to delays in instructions coming from the AG. President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Preethi Padman Surasena said digitization of the court system was essential to mitigate the Law’s delays and ensure a more efficient legal system.
Cambridge Analytica offered its services to the UNP: Ranil
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe revealed yesterday that representatives of the scandal-plagued British data company Cambridge Analytica, had also met with him and offered their services to the United National Party (UNP).The company is under legal probe in Britain, after being accused of misusing personal data from 50 million Facebook accounts, to influence the 2016 US presidential election. The company’s role was exposed in a Britain’s Channel 4 television investigation, with journalists speaking to the company’s top executive, while posing as fixers for a wealthy client trying to get candidates elected at an election in Sri Lanka.
Premier Wickremesinghe said they did not accept the offer but that, some of the things the representatives told the undercover journalists had been conveyed to him. “So, I see no reason to disbelieve Channel 4,” he added.