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Sri Lankans posting, sharing falsehoods on social media face arrest without warrant

Sri Lankans publishing or sharing fake news on social media can be arrested without a warrant, police said.

In a statement issued June 08, police said anyone creating, publishing, sharing, forwarding, or aiding and abetting the spread of fake news on social media will be considered to have committed an offence under provisions in the police ordinance, the penal code, the prevention of terrorism act (PTA), the computer crimes act and other laws.

Police claimed various parties are reported to be disseminating falsehoods on social media, which may result in disturbances to the peace, disharmony between communities, sexual crimes against women and children, harassment to religious belief, and various frauds. Online falsehoods can also encourage people to violate COVID-19 quarantine regulations, police said.

The police statement follows the arrest of Information Technology Society Sri Lanka (ITSSL) Chairman Rajeev Yasiru Kuruwitage Mathew over alleged false claims pertaining to a cyber attack on a number of state-owned websites.

Insisting that the police respects freedom of expression and does not in any way wish to stifle media freedom, the statement said the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Computer Crimes Unit will take legal action against those who sow hate between communities.

The department requested the public not to spread or assist in the spread of falsehoods on social media either individually or in an organised manner.

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