Panel/Talk Disrupting Dissent: Ethno-religious Hate Speech and Disinformation during and in the aftermath of the 2022 Anti-Government Protests in Sri Lanka

Hashtag Generation

Dulanjaya Mahagamage (in-person)
Omar Rajaratnam (virtual)
Suchith Abeywickreme (virtual)
Swasthika Arulingam (virtual)

Moderator: Saritha Irugalbandara

  • Thursday, 25 May 2023 (Day 4)
  • 13:30 – 14:45 hrs (GMT+7)
  • CMU Art Center – Theater

The islandwide anti-Government protests in Sri Lanka were an unprecedented display of collective public dissent that began as a hashtag, #GotaGoHome, and burgeoned into a mass movement which included the establishment of a protest village, teach-outs and knowledge sharing sessions, and public pushback against State repression. Attempts to discredit the popular movement were rife, too, particularly in online spaces, often in the form of attempting to invoke and reinvigorate existing ethno-religious fault lines that have in the past resulted in both communal and State-sanctioned violence against minority groups. Hate speech and disinformation targeting minority communities, namely Muslims, Tamils, Christians/Catholics, and the Veddha indigenous community to varying degrees at different points of 2022 and during the current aftermath of the protests were observed and mapped by Hashtag Generation as part of its social media analysis exercise. This session attempts to unpack the different ways in which ethno-religious hate speech and disinformation has been used to the end of attempting to discredit a peoples movement, the implications it poses at the intersection of the State, collective imaginaries, and the right to dissent, while also dissecting the developments since July 9 2022 that threatens the freedom of expression and peaceful dissent of several overlapping groups.

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