In the wake of horrific bombings in Sri Lanka, their government decided to temporarily ban access to social media sites. This is not the first time they have done this. Last March, they cut access due to anti-muslim riots in their predominantly Buddhist nation.
Why Did They Ban?
More than 300 people died in a series of bombings in both churches and hotels. Afterwards, their government wanted to crack down on all the false or misleading news reports that spread like wildfire after such terrible events. They are concerned with all the hate speech that spreads, and which could incite further violence.
They have assured their peoples that they will lift the ban once their investigations are over. The shut down has affected most media sites, yet Twitter, which isn’t widely used in Sri Lanka, seems to be unaffected.
Was It A Good Idea?
There are definitely two sides voicing their opinions. Some feel this is inevitable because these social media companies can’t seem to control the spread of misinformation. And others feel this is setting a dangerous precedence.
On one side, opinion writers like Kara Swisher, of the New York Times wrote:
“Good… it could save lives. Good because the companies that run these platforms seem incapable of controlling the powerful global tools they have built. Good because the toxic digital waste of misinformation that floods these platforms has overwhelmed what was once so very good about them.”
On the other side, the Editorial Board of the Washington Post wrote:
“Sri Lanka’s move against social media is the latest rebuke of platforms once seen as a great hope of the democratic world… Sri Lanka has shut down access without any evidence that rumours or rhetoric on the site led to harm… But a moratorium on Facebook and other essential services in Sri Lanka is also a moratorium on easy communication.”
Whichever side of the argument you land on, it’s not without its seemingly valid reason.
Unfortunately, there are many frustrated and worried family members who can no longer use the method of communication with their loved ones in Sri Lanka. For some, it’s their ONLY means of communication.
Does Banning Work?
It may work for the immediate present, but if bans last too long, people find ways to get around it. A researcher in Sri Lanka, named Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, claims that during the previous ban, he did an analysis of thousands of Facebook posts, concluding that many had successfully circumvented it.
How? VPN’s. Virtual Private Networks, which masks your physical location by funnelling your data through another server in another country.
So while it’s understandable why Sri Lanka’s officials feel justified in banning access to social media, it may not be having the impact they hope.
The sudden knee-jerk reactions can often backfire. Plus it’s cutting off the lifelines that many people used to connect with one another.
What’s The Downside?
Besides the obvious difficulties families are experiencing, with their only communication taken away, I’m also thinking about all those people whose livelihood depend on their online businesses.
There are many entrepreneurs who have built their businesses using only social media for promoting their products or services. And when you depend on these platforms to drive traffic to your ads, and then you lose access to them, it can completely cut off your income streams.
Many take this route because they don’t want to be bothered with websites and monthly hosting fees. They set up a business page on all the social media sites, and depend on those pages to run their promotions.
Now I agree, sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., are a very effective way to drive traffic to your ads, there’s that inherent risk of them shutting down. In this case, it’s only the Sri Lankan people who are suffering, but it’s a great example of what can happen at any moment.
How To Avoid A Business Shutdown
If you have read any of my other articles, you will always hear me recommend having a website. This should be the foundation of your online business. It offers a professional look to your business as well as security for instances such as social media bans.
Using social media should be additional tools used to drive traffic to your site. But they shouldn’t be your only means of reaching out. Great assets also include your email list with email marketing. The valuable content you add to your site is a great way to drive free traffic. And there’s also paid advertisements to consider.
So unless the entire internet shuts down, which won’t happen, lol, your website is your security net.
If you have a business without a website, I highly recommend you start one. It’s better for your business, which is better for you! And if you’re not sure how to go about this, I’d love to help you.
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If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and I’ll get right back to you.