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Sri Lanka bans Facebook, WhatsApp, others in wake of rising tensions

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Government Officials on Monday said, some social media networks will be temporarily blocked in Sri Lanka, after messages shared online raised religious tensions that have been running high since the deadly Easter Sunday bombings.

Facebook and WhatsApp were both blocked on Monday, including Viber, a senior Sri Lankan government official said.

Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile network, Dialog Axiata, said in a tweet that it had been ordered to restrict Instagram, Snapchat and video-calling app IMO.

Twitter, which has a relatively small user base in Sri Lanka, has been exempted from the restrictions.

The platforms were blocked to prevent “social unrest via hate messages and false information,” Nalaka Kaluwewa, director general of the country’s Department of Government Information, told CNN.

A police spokesman, PS Ruwan Gunasekara, said that in one case a message shared on Facebook led to a tense situation on Sunday in the town of Chilaw, 80km north of the capital Colombo.

A number of people surrounded and damaged an Islamic religious centre and police arrested a person, identified as Abdul-Hameed Mohamed, who had allegedly posted an inflammatory message on Facebook.

An overnight curfew was imposed in parts of northern Sri Lanka to prevent further violence.

Gunasekara said other false messages on social media claimed a terrorist group has been arrested close to the capital and that three people, who were pretending to be medical students were arrested at a hospital on the city’s outskirts.

Armed forces and police on Monday also increased security in the wake of reports that a terrorist group was planning to carry out attacks in several locations in the capital.

Security has been tight in Sri Lanka since Easter Sunday when 257 people were killed in suicide attacks in three churches, three luxury hotels and two other locations.

The bombers were identified members of an Islamist extremist group.

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