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Social media in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, social media, research

Social Network Analysis

Snapshots of doctoral research

Social media in Sri Lanka

Sanjana Hattotuwa | [email protected]



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. 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 archives of what was from 2015-2019 a regular Sunday column to Sri Lankan newspaper.

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

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, which I stopped in December 2019, to the Sunday Island newspaper in Sri Lanka. The writing was often based on aspects of my doctoral 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, August 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, November 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 & tweet threads

Capture of Facebook coverage on the passing of the 20th Amendment in Parliament on 22 October 2020

* See tweet thread here.

Tweet threads on New Zealand’s parliamentary election held on 17 October 2020 using data from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (#NZElection2020)

* See tweet thread here on data off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

* Read topline capture here. Read it in a printable format here.

* See tweet thread here on data off YouTube, Facebook and Twitter looking at the Advance NZ party and the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation leading up to election day. Read it in a printable format here.

The weaponisation of Facebook in the 2020 US Presidential Election juxtaposed with research conducted in 2015 on role of Facebook in Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Election

* See tweet thread here.

Weaponisation of rumours on WhatsApp in Sri Lanka

* See tweet thread here.

On the variance in Facebook’s approach to Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour (CIB), in relation to content posted during Sri Lanka’s pandemic lockdown

* See tweet thread here.

* For more information and data around content generated during Sri Lanka’s Coronavirus pandemic lockdown early 2020, click here.

On the official Twitter account of China’s Embassy in Sri Lanka

* A detailed snapshot of 600+ tweets published by the Chinese Embassy’s Twitter account in Colombo, which was created late March. The study places this account in the context of a larger, and more voluminous global propaganda push by the Chinese government to promote China’s image during the pandemic. Post on the ‘Journalist Sprint Sri Lanka’ Facebook page frames the study and tweets by way of comparing it to the US Embassy’s much older Twitter account in Sri Lanka.

* See tweet thread based on the response to the US Ambassador in October 2020 here, including visualisation of the 951 tweets posted to date.

Tweet thread 5 years after the launch of the ‘Corridors of Power’ project, interrogating 4 decades of Sri Lanka’s constitutional evolution through architecture

* See tweet here. Related Facebook event page here.

On memes pushing back against government policies and presidential directives

* See tweet here. Related article from 2012, referenced in the tweet (‘The Sri Lankan Meme’), here.

Looking at Facebook and Twitter data for a week pegged to the 20th Amendment Bill, gazetted on 2nd September 2020

* See tweet thread here.

* Topline observation here.

* Related study / slideshow on constitutional reform under the yahapalanaya government, from 2015-2019, here. Tweet there here and column here.

Emotional contagion effect around the time of the Ampara & Digana riots in March 2018

* See tweet thread here.

On impact of proposed 20th Amendment to the constitution to electoral integrity in Sri Lanka

* See tweet thread here.

* Twitter Moment on the 20th Amendment here.

On Facebook’s announcements around measures to strengthen electoral integrity in the US Presidential Election, November 2020

* See tweet thread here.

Misinformation seeded and spread by Daily Mirror (pegged to ranking of SL Army’s Special Forces)

* See tweet thread here.

#NZhellhole: New Zealand Twitter users on country’s tryst with pandemic

* See tweet thread here.

* See related blog post with links to high resolution data visualisations here.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s inaugural speech to the 9th Parliament of Sri Lanka on 20 August 2020

* See tweet thread here.

* Related threads on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s speech at the SLPP Convention in August 2019 here, and speech to 8th Parliament in January 2020, here.

* Data visualisation of the President’s speech on 20 August here.

* 4K video capturing semantic analysis of the President’s speech here.

Tweet thread examining transparency reports for 2019 by Facebook, Twitter and Google

* See tweet thread here.

Tweet thread examining islandwide power grid failure on 17 August 2020

* On 17 August 2020, Sri Lanka experienced an all-island power grid failure lasting for over 7 hours. #PowerCutLK trended on Twitter at this time. Click here for tweet thread.

* Download the visualisation as an extremely high resolution PNG or as a searchable PDF here.

On China, Huawei and Sri Lankan���s telecommunications infrastructure in light of report on Papua New Guinea

* Responding to an article in Canada's Global and Mail newspaper (Huawei-built data centre a ‘failed investment,’ Papua New Guinea says) penned some tweets on the degree to which Huawei's is part of Sri Lanka's telecommunications infrastructure.

On Facebook’s bias towards the BJP in India

* Initial response to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article. Tweet highlights letter by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) to Facebook.

* Tweet thread by Newley Purnell, one of the co-writers, gives gist and key insights to how Ankhi Das in India opposed measures against hate speech promoted by a prominent BJP politician.

* Tweet thread anchored to the WSJ article anchored to dynamics on Facebook in Sri Lanka the company knows or does little about.

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 ex

Snapshots of research
Tags Sri Lanka, Social media, Research
Type Google Doc
Published 26/10/2020, 03:48:21