Facebook and WhatsApp are still blocked in Sri Lanka, days after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.
Many Sri Lankans are turning to VPNs to get around the ban, with a massive uptick in searches for VPNs and information on how to get around the blocks, according to Simon Migliano, head of research at Top10VPN.com.
The problem is that for most Sri Lankans, Facebook is the internet and how friends and family communicate. Given how integral the social network is to their daily lives, it’s to be expected that Sri Lankans are finding ways around the shutdown, such as by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
What is surprising however is the sheer size of the spike in demand: our global monitoring data shows that over the two days following the attack the daily average number of VPN searches surged by over 12,000% compared to daily searches over the 30 days prior.
Experts and locals have criticized the ban as counterproductive and illiberal, and questioned the government's justification for the ban as preventing the spread of "false information."
"As facts are developing it's becoming clearer that the government of Sri Lanka has a lot to explain owing to its failure in keeping its citizens secure," said Mishi Choudhary, legal director at the Software Freedom Law Center.
"Shutting down social media at such a time when people whose loved ones have died are seeking answers seems selfish and politically motivated," she added.