Missed opportunities for businesses | Sunday Observer

Missed opportunities for businesses

The business community while recognising the importance of temporarily banning social media to curb the spread of racist comments and hate speech to protect the interest of the country, said the move to shut down the country from the rest of the world and interaction among people resulted in negative sentiments about the nation and many missed opportunities to carry out businesses. Representatives of organizations said the temporary ban was the right move in that context but it is not the be all and end all to address extremism. The culprits behind the move to create racial disharmony should be dealt with severely, leaving no room for such behaviour to get away from the long arm of the law. Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray said national interest should take precedence but the entire country cannot suffer due to the misconduct of a few who want to drag the country backwards.

“Those behind clandestine operations, irrespective of who they are, should be brought to justice and all future attempts to promote communal discord should be stemmed without delay,” he said.

Hotel operators said the imposition of the emergency regulation followed by the ban on social media had adverse consequences on bookings as tour operators and private travellers were unable to communicate with the hotels.

“We had a very bad time due to the shutting off of facebook, viber and other social media communication channels,” a boutique hotel operator in the South said.

Saraketha Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. Chairman Prasanna Hettiarachchi said given the scenario that triggered in the country, the ban on social media is acceptable but thought should go into the ill effects of it in the long term.

“The ban had an impact on reservations as communication channels were restricted,” he said.

CICRA Holdings Director/CEO Boshan Dayaratne said the ban on social media to curtail the spread of unwanted and incorrect information that created violence was the right step taken by the government. However continuing the ban is not proper as it has other consequences to the country.

“People should be disciplined in using social media. Irresponsible conduct through social media must not be permitted. Education on responsible social media usage will help create civic conscious citizens who will respect each other and take the country forward,” Dayaratne said.

The business community called upon the authorities to have proper regulations to control irresponsible social media usage.

“Users of social media platforms to promote racist views and bring disharmony among communities should be traced and punished severely,” a software company official said.

CEO Shippers’ Academy Colombo Rohan Masakorala said the social media ban can be justified if it did not exceed 72 hours. There was poor communication by the authorities to explain to the people the rationale behind the ban and the next course of action. Keeping people in the dark resulted in those with political agendas taking advantage of the scenario.

Social media is used by a large number of people irrespective of their status to communicate and promote their products. The negative impact of the disturbance is not measurable but its repercussions are on the economy at large and especially on the small and medium sector enterprises in the trade and tourism sector.

“With current technology there are ways to trace the hands behind violence. Speedy remedial action by the authorities is vital to root out extremism. Beating about the bush will not help the country which is ambling away when others in the region are fast getting ahead of us,” Masakorala said.

The ban on social media was lifted last Thursday and according to the Prime Minister there would be new laws to control social media and hate speech soon.

The premier said last week that the Attorney General’s Department is presently studying laws enacted by other countries such as UK and Kenya to control hate speech and laws to control social media in Germany.

Germany commenced enforcing laws that demand social media sites to move quickly to remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material from the beginning of this year.

Sites that do not comply would face fines of up to 50m Euro. The law provides the networks 24 hours to act after they have been told about law breaking content. Facebook, Twitter and You Tube will be the main focus of the law while Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social networks VK, Vimeo and Flickr are likely to come under the law.