Sri Lanka’s legislation to regulate online content: Incompetence or clever attempt to promote self-censorship?

Posted by on October 14, 2023  /  0 Comments

Now that three judges have been empaneled to rule on the constitutionality of the government’s “online safety” bill, there is little further value that can be added to the constitutional and legal issues that have already been raised in and TV talk shows.

Now is the time to try to understand the big picture. In this talk that I gave a journalists’ group, I ask whether the extraordinary imprecision of drafting that is found in this act and the obvious mismatch between the proposed solutions and the real problems of online harms is simply a result of incompetence. Occam’s Razor suggests that this is explanation enough.

But there is a slightly more complex explanation that makes sense. Perhaps the flaccid drafting is not a bug, but a feature. Perhaps the intention is to get everyone (content creators, sharers, platforms) to engage in excessively strict self-censorship because no one will be able to clearly define what is permitted and what is not.

Presentation slides are here.

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