By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Internet freedom in Sri Lanka improved slightly and remained categorised as “partly free” with its score gaining to 52 out of 100 from 48 last year as per The Freedom House “Freedom on the Net 2023.”
Sri Lanka’s score on ‘Obstacle to access’ was 12 out 25; ‘Limits on content’ was 22/35 and ‘Violations of user rights’ – 18/40.
Improvement was a result of the lack of blocks on social media platforms during the coverage period. Improvements in internet penetration and a drop in cyberattacks also contributed to the increase in the score.
However, proposed legislation for the Broadcasting Regulatory Act, the Antiterrorism Act and Anti-Corruption Bill raised concerns as they could potentially undermine online freedom of expression and privacy in the future.
Despite these continued restrictions, Sri Lankans continued to engage in digital activism around a range of issues.
In addition, the Sri Lanka report notes that the Government continued to detain, arrest and intimidate those connected with the Aragalaya protests for their online posts – using existing legislation including the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the ICCPR.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe imposed emergency regulations in July 2022 that sought to curb dissent by barring the spread of purportedly false information, including online.
The report said global internet freedom declined for the 13th consecutive year. Digital repression intensified in Iran, home to this year’s worst decline, as authorities shut down internet service, blocked WhatsApp and Instagram, and increased surveillance in a bid to quell anti-Government protests.
In a record 55 of the 70 countries covered by Freedom on the Net, people faced legal repercussions for expressing themselves online, while people were physically assaulted or killed for their online commentary in 41 countries.
At least 47 Governments deployed commentators to manipulate online discussions in their favour during the coverage period, double the number from a decade ago.
Meanwhile, AI-based tools that can generate text, audio, and imagery have quickly grown more sophisticated, accessible, and easy to use, spurring a concerning escalation of these disinformation tactics.
Over the past year, the new technology was utilised in at least 16 countries to sow doubt, smear opponents, or influence public debate. The report emphasised protection of internet freedom, democracy’s supporters must adapt the lessons learned from past internet governance challenges and apply them to AI.