Sri Lanka is experiencing communal violence after the alleged murder of a Sinhalese Buddhist by a group of Muslims in the city of Kandy.
In an effort to calm the heat, the government has imposed an island-wide State of Emergency (SoE) which blocks its citizens from using Social Media networks and messaging services. Here, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Instagram are affected.
The move was made following police warning that rioters were using Social media to spread anti-Muslim sentiment, and riots that have claimed lives and left Muslim homes, mosques and businesses in ruins.
The intention for such blockages is prevent the spread of rumors and incendiary posts and comments that may trigger further violence. Some even experience a total cut off from the internet when local ISPs were asked by regulators to stop the unrest spreading.
With Sri Lanka facing its first SoE since its civil war nearly a decade ago, this preventive measure can make it difficult for many citizens to stay in touch with their loved ones and to avoid danger.
"This is a temporary measure and we will have the restrictions removed soon," said a government's top official.
He said that police had already identified anti-Muslim messages that were shared on social networks, including a video posted by a hardline Buddhist monk urging violence against Muslims.
Censorship and media oppression have been widely used since president Mahinda Rajapakse took power. For about a decade in office before stepping down in 2015, he had ordered local ISPs to block anti-government sentiment online.
The situation is somehow similar to what frequently happens in India. The neighboring country had experienced more than 70 internet blackouts since 2012, including the recent cut off in the country’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir which made 22 online services, including social networks, being blocked for a month - affecting more than 12 million people in the process.