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Social media in Sri Lanka - Sourceful

Sri Lanka, social media, research

Social Network Analysis

Snapshots of research

Social media in Sri Lanka

Sanjana Hattotuwa | sanjanah {at} gmail {dot} com



My doctoral research at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS), University of Otago, is anchored to the study of social media in Sri Lanka, post-2015. As a consequence, and far more than I expected when I started my course of study, the voluminous, varied and often violent socio-political developments on the ground have contributed to ever increasing content production on Twitter and Facebook. The academic rigour I am being schooled in requires a careful delineation and critical distance from observed events, processes and data collected. An interventionist gene, however, compels me to release and reflect more urgently and frequently than I thought I would. I am trying to navigate this tension - emphasis on trying. As partial evidence of my failure, this document captures some of my output since 2018 first and predominantly published on Twitter. Will keep updating this document with new or rediscovered content.

* Short bio on about.me. Profile on LinkedIn. Musings on Twitter.

* Blog on ICT/technology for peace and another one featuring regular Sunday column to Sri Lankan newspaper.

* Archives of web content anchored to socio-political developments in Sri Lanka since 2003.

Data blog, writing & visualisations

* Ourdiversity.org is where I publish, monthly, visualisations of my Twitter data collection anchored to the #lka and #srilanka hashtags. Read my tweets launching the blog here.

* A weekly column to the Sunday Island newspaper in Sri Lanka touches often touches on aspects of my research and resulting insights.

* My writing on the use of Information and Communications Technologies for peace, for close upon 15 years.

* My work with the ICT4Peace Foundation, since 2006, anchored to my research foci.

* My work with the Centre for Policy Alternatives, since 2002, covers a gamut of issues from FoE to civic media and misinformation.

Data captures, writing & tweets around specific incidents

General Election 2020

* Click here for a document that captures data from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter in the lead up to the General Election 2020.

Covid19 / Coronavirus pandemic

* Click here for a document that captures data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube on the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government’s response to the Coronavirus / Covid-19 pandemic.

Presidential Election 2019

* Click here for a document that captures data from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter in the lead up to the Presidential Election 2019.

* Also see semantic analysis of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s key speeches in English.

Constitutional crisis, Sri Lanka, October to December 2018

* Click here for a document that captured, over 52 days, dynamics and developments around the constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka, from 26 October to mid-December 2018.

Christchurch terrorist attack, New Zealand, March 2019

Click here for a blog post with some data visualisations on the domestic and international conversations anchored to the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Also wrote 5 op-eds on the incident, analysing events and responses from a social media perspective.

1. A historic opportunity, Otago Daily Times

2. Principles over promises: Responding to terrorism, Scoop

3. Pulse points, Scoop

4. Terrorists know they have the upper hand on social media, Stuff.co.nz

5. NZ's response can lead the way, Otago Daily Times

Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, Sri Lanka, 21 April 2019

Click here for a document capturing the content resulting from the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, including data-driven perspectives on the use of VPNs during the social media blocks imposed by the government on three occasions. Document includes capture of Facebook content against violence, at the height of unrest on the ground, as well as, analysis of Google Search Trends data on VPN use during social media blocks in Sri Lanka, and to what degree it impacted use and access of Facebook etc. I also did a quick capture of responses on Instagram to the terrorist attacks.

Episodic data captures

Capture of responses on Facebook to SLPP Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s allegation leading to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena appearing at the CID,

* Day 1, 3 July 2020

* Day 2, 4 July 2020.

* Day 3, 5 July 2020.

On Facebook’s engagements with journalists and civil society in Sri Lanka

* See tweet thread looking at the manner in which Facebook engages with leading journalists, training institutes and civil society in Sri Lanka in a manner that exacerbates mis/mal/disinfo.

* These tweets were generated in response to an excellent article by Jacob Silverman in CJR.

Deforestation and spread of urban development in Sri Lanka from 1984-2018

* See tweet here and video here (on YouTube).

Tweets responding to a Press Release from Facebook on hate speech

* See tweet thread here. The PR by Facebook can be read here.

Capture of #JusticeforThariq & #JusticeforKavinda tweets, anchored to Police brutality, torture & violence in Sri Lanka, June 2020

* See tweet thread here also looking at the role of ‘influencer-politicians’ and performativity on Twitter.

Concerns around Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and net neutrality

* See tweet thread here looking at the first open admission of DPI use in Sri Lanka and the implications for, inter alia, net neutrality in the country.

* Responses to a question around implications go further into the risks associated with DPI use in the country.


Response to Facebook’s Independent Human Rights Assessment (HRIA) on Sri Lanka

* See blog post here.

‘Plandemic’, Facebook and disinformation

* Though not anchored to Sri Lanka specifically, a tweet thread anchored to ‘Plandemic’ - which did the rounds during the Coronavirus pandemic - that looks at what Facebook wasn’t doing to stop its spread even as it was publicly committed to and how the Colombo upper-middle class were a vector of disinformation spread.

AFP Fact Check on Coronavirus

1. See tweet thread here.

Public lecture on ‘Social Media and Open Society’ organised by Nightwatchman Society

1. See video here.

2. Tweet by Nightwatchman Society here.

3. Full slidedeck and write up here.

Presentation to Search for Common Ground (SFCG) on social media and elections in Sri Lanka, anchored to Facebook content dynamics in Presidential Election 2019

1. See here for tweet thread.

2. See here for full slide deck.

Fact checking fact checks

* See tweet on Telecommunications Regulation Commission (TRC) ad which it denied running in 2017.

Study of misinformation virality & fact-checking’s effectiveness on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter

* Topline observations.

* Detailed tweet thread.

* Questions posted to AFP Fact Check and Facebook arising from the data capture.

Instagram accounts of Sajith Premadasa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP, Namal, Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa

* Deep dive into the captions of all the accounts which follows earlier study of Instagram after the Easter Sunday terrorism in April 2019.

Facebook page like networks and partisan echo chambers

* Capture done in August 2019

Presidential Election 2019 apps

* First Android apps featuring Mahinda Rajapaksa / pro-SLPP in 2014

* V-Can app and privacy (2019 Presidential Election campaign)

Interview with Ranjan Ramanayake MP by Ashen on YouTube, July 2019

* Criticism of the sangha by Ramanayake led to a lot of pushback & hate. Explored how the video was viewed and commented on in the period of just under two weeks, as well as how comments from YouTube were reflected on Facebook. Click here.

Evolution of YouTube content since 2015

* A deep data dive into thousands of videos and associated comments published on YouTube since 2015. Click here.

Death Penalty

* Looking at content on Facebook and Twitter, in Sinhala and English, since 1 January 2019 to 26 June 2019 on the death penalty.

(Social) media literacy

* The reactions and responses on the Facebook page of Groundviews to content published by The Hindu and New York Times in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.

* Tweet thread on the growth of hate and toxicity on social media, reflecting on stop words used on Facebook page of Groundviews.

Racism on social media

* Tweets on the nature of racism on social media, evident after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.

10 years after the end of war, Sri Lanka, May 2019

* Click here for tweets anchored to how differently the 10th year commemoration of the end of war in Sri Lanka was captured by Tamil and Sinhala speaking communities on Twitter.

Content inciting hate and violence

* Content after the release of Gnanasara Theory in April 2019 aimed at Sandya Eknaligoda.

* Content put out by the SLPP during the height of mob violence in Sri Lanka.

Saving Wilpattu

* How content on ‘saving Wilpattu’, with associated racial and communal overtones, played out on Facebook and Twitter in March 2019. Read The ecology of an issue: ‘Save Wilpattu’ on Facebook and Twitter and also related tweets here.

* On New Scientist article flagging white nationalism’s capture of environmentalism in the US, https://twitter.com/sanjanah/status/1166121128995147781

Gnanasara Thero’s Presidential pardon, April 2019

* Content on Gnanasara Thero, across Facebook & Twitter, just after his release from prison late April 2019.

* Looking at content on Gnanasara Thero, the PM and President across ~1,500 pages on Facebook.

* Looking at content on the Thero on Youtube, 5 May to 5 June 2019.


* Click here for a tweet thread on the dynamics and evolution of Youtube videos, produced by mainstream media / TV stations in Sri Lanka, from 2015 to May, 2019.

Coverage of Gnanasara Thero (including release from prison) and hate against Sandya Eknaligoda

Snapshots of research
Tags Sri Lanka, Social media, Research
Type Google Doc
Published 07/05/2020, 20:54:41