Photo from a CDMA tower, but you get the point
I suppose it was just a matter of time. The government has begun monitoring and cracking down on Internet speech in earnest. This includes arresting people for Facebook/SMS rumours and shutting down various websites. LankaeNews journalist Prageeth Ekneliyagoda is still missing, after over a week. Various websites have been blocked or shut down and there are reports that a Chinese team has been brought in to help the government monitor stuff. I think the Internet needs to have some regulation but this, like a lot of other law, is just being used to crack down on people that think different. Rumors and outright lies on state media are condoned, and most SMS and Facebook spam comes from that side.
Information Abhors A Vacuum
With the crackdown on independent media, you simply get less reliable news. Hence everything in the print and electronic media is taken with oodles of salt and MSG. Many papers and outlets resort to basically running Media Center For National Security press releases, which is basically propaganda. That said, the grapevine is fertile as ever and people know things and those stories spread. Most of it is absolute nonsense, but some of it is true. The sad thing is that it’s impossible to know. Personally, the only things I trust are what I see with my own eyes, or what a few people see with theirs.
Into this vacuum you get a situation where random ass bloggers and twitterers can provide vital if limited insights. As in, I saw troops surrounding the Elections Commission, or I am in Menik Farm and it is raining. That stuff is important as it sort of keeps the hinges on reality, though it is not really a substitute for a functioning media.
Government Demands Control
However, this is not really priority for the government. The priority is power, and stability, and media is value as a means to an end. So, as messy, uncomfortable expression peeks out online, they’re working to suppress that too. There was a time when people thought Internet behavior was uncontrollable, but it’s not, it’s actually quite easy to repress. If that is accomplished, we’re left literally in an almost preliterate environment of gossip and rumor.
Why This Is Bad
I think that going this direction just leads to more rumor and confusion. The main reason you get random nonsense online is that the government has beaten the senses out of the mainstream media. Changing course on that issue would be impossible of course, so it looks like full steam to China.