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Sri Lanka to amend laws to tackle fake news, hate speech on social media: 5-year jail, fine up to Rs 10 lakh

The Sri Lankan Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to amend to the country's Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to take action against people spreading fake news, including statements that impact national security and incite violence between communities, Sri Lankan newspaper Daily FT reported. Under the proposal, those caught spreading fake news and hate speech on social media could face a five-year jail term and a fine of up to Sri Lankan Rs 10 lakh (about 4 lakh Indian rupees). The amendment to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code was proposed by the acting Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms Ranjith Madduma Bandara. Since the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka in April, the country has temporarily blocked access to social media platforms on three occasions (see below). The bans did little to control the spread of fake news, however, and may have made the problem worse. The Times of India reported recently, citing experts, that Sri Lankan social networks saw an increase in fake news after the Easter bombings despite the blocks, which highlighted the inability of governments to contain disinformation this way. Many social media users simply switched to virtual private networks (VPNs) or the TOR network to bypass the blocks, the report said. The latest development comes a few days after the Oversight Committee on National Security said it was considering new laws to regulate social media to control dissemination of information that can have a "harmful influence". Sri Lanka also recently drafted a new Cyber Security Bill that seeks to to protect vital…

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