Facebook, Sri Lanka, NPR discussed on All Things Considered

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From NPR news. It's all things considered. I'm Audie Cornish. And I'm Ari Shapiro as free Lanka investigates who was behind yesterday's terrorist attacks on churches and hotels. The government continues to block access to social media, their Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all owned by Facebook are among the services under a blackout this. Once again brings into focus the fear that Facebook cannot rain in disinformation and calls to finance and pears. Arthur Shahani is following the situation hierarchy high. What explanation did tree long has government give for shutting down these social media apps? So in a nutshell, the government doesn't trust Facebook to yank down fake news and call to miles before they go viral keep in mind. Sri Lanka is only a decade out of civil war. That's not a long time people. Remember it peace feels tenuous to them just a year ago last March Buddhist extremists torched, Muslim homes and businesses and used Facebook to incite violence in response to that the government had had. Had announced a seventy two hour block on social media in this time around the government is not putting a time limit on it. It's unclear when the band will come to an end. Of course, there are lots of examples of hoaxes going rampant on on Facebook from Myanmar to the United States. We have to note, they aren't NPR sponsor. How is the company responded to what's happening? Sri Lanka responses. Me company leaders are not defending themselves. They issued a statement and a pretty conciliatory tone saying, hey, we're working to support first responders and law enforcement and to identify and remove harmful content. Facebook had so many screw ups executive can't give themselves up Pat on the back or claim. Hey, we have a handle on calls to violence as recently as the New Zealand massacre Facebook failed to remove twenty percents of the video footage of the mass shooting, even though in that instance, people in the company knew what to look out for tell us how people in Sri Lanka are responding to the Senate you've been reaching out to people affected by the blackout. What are you hearing? I have you know, social media has been used time and again to help in crises right people turn to. Facebook to check in and broadcast that their faith to get updates from local officials and hospitals, and especially in Asia where WhatsApp is replaced regular phone calls for much of the population. The ban really threw people off. I spoke to one woman in American named Rena Aurora who is in Sri Lanka on vacation her family. Didn't know she was in Colombo near a bomb target. And this is her they tried to call me several times. I believe what's happened. They weren't able to get in contact with me. And so they were very concerned for my safety because all of them that I was traveling enchilada the time she had to worry about her parents worrying that she was injured or even worse than that. And she had no idea what was down when she tried to reach driver to get to the airport. He didn't respond and she figured, okay. He's blowing me off. And you know, he wasn't. He just didn't get the messages. So the both of them were operating in an information. Vacuum feeling totally isolated when what they really needed was to connect in a moments of panic. Can we say whether the blackout has actually worked at prevent. Eating the spread of hoaxes and conspiracy theories. Yeah. You know, I actually spoke to a man who lives in Colombo. And he told me that even though Facebook was banned some people use the back door tool. It's called a VPN to get on. Anyway. And lo and behold there ripostes online designed to so fear one one post claims a bomb went off in a nearby local park that was not true and other post claim that terrorists had poisoned the water supply. That was also ally TV and radio journalists had to jump in on that. And report that hey, you can trust the water you can drink at faith. That was extra work for them. It could have been worse with more people on the platform. Wow. So just briefly how does what's happened in Sri Lanka compared to what you've seen in other parts of the world. You know, what we've just seen in Sri Lanka is very swift unilateral action. Other countries like France and Germany have gone. The regulatory route, right. Germany path laws to find Facebook severely for its failure to pull down white supremacists. Content. Either approach quick or regulatory methodic the illustrate that because Facebook has. Been able to take control governments have decided that they're going to have to act. It's NPR's Arthur Shahani, thanks so much. Thank you now to the Democratic Republic of Congo where for months health workers have been struggling to contain any bull outbreak. Despite the fact that more than one hundred thousand people have been vaccinated. There's been a surge of new cases and more than thirteen hundred people have been infected so far the biggest obstacle to stopping the outbreak armed groups who keep attacking health workers in just the last few days. They were two assaults here to tell us. More is NPR's and read is in and welcome to the studio. Hi outy. Give us the latest on these attacks. I well the first one was on Friday afternoon. It was at a local hospital in a city called Mutombo. That's one of the current epicenters of the outbreak and about twenty members of one of the local Ebola response teams were having a meeting in witnesses say two gunmen Burstein, they took everyone's cell phones and other they started shooting injured two people and they killed the team leader. His name was. Dr Richard Valerie was Oko. He was an epidemiologist from Cameron had been deployed by the World Health Organization to help fight Ebola. And then just a few hours later there was an attack on another local command center, this one was at a hospital in a nearby. Suburb called Koch wa it's one of the worst hot spots in the outbreak zone. And this one was around three AM Saturday morning. Four people tried to set fire to that command center. Police fought them off they killed one assailant, and they captured the rest are these centers being targeted on purpose in if so how come it seems so yes, and it's not clear exactly who was behind each of these attacks. But I spoke with Dr Michel Yow who is leading the response for the World Health Organization, and he says witnesses in that first attack told him that the gunmen were shouting Ebola doesn't exist. You're just here to make money off of us and it fits into a larger problem of mistrust in the local population. There have been years of armed. Conflict in this part of Congo and people feel victimized by the government. So they don't trust authorities and by extension health workers. What does this mean for the effort to try and contain the outbreak? Well, there's a lot of concern because this is just the latest in a series of violent incidents that directly target health workers since February two Ebola treatment centers have been attacked Dr Masuku the doctor who was killed on Friday. He had only arrived four weeks ago. And he apparently told colleagues that he was really worried he's left behind a wife and four children in Cameroon. And so each time there's been an attack the health workers need to regroup. They slow down their efforts to vaccinate people who've been exposed, and then you see the effect in the outbreak. It gets worse. Basically more people start to get sick. And you know to give you an example in February just before these attacks on the bullet treatment centers started. They were saying about thirty new cases a week. And then this month, we're already up. To seventy new cases every week even as high as one hundred new cases every week. If this violence continues is there a chance at the outbreak could grow into a catastrophe similar to what we saw in twenty fourteen in some west African countries there are some really important differences, first of all the WHO and the government have been on this from the beginning. There's also a vaccine now which has been a game changer as you noted they've managed to get more than one hundred thousand people to take it and the evidence is highly effective. So there are still reasons to be hopeful despite this latest violence, that's NPR's Eisenman. Thank you for explaining.

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