Social media restored in Sri Lanka following third nationwide block

Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, and Twitter have been partially restored in Sri Lanka as of Friday 17 May 2019 following a four-day block, according to real-time network measurement data from the NetBlocks internet observatory.

The restrictions are implemented at ISP level and connectivity has subsequently returned to all providers in line with patterns observed during previous incidents.

NetBlocks data show that major internet providers Dialog Axiata and Airtel were first to restore access to the services while they initially remained blocked with Sri Lanka Telecom as of 1:00 p.m. UTC (7:00 p.m. local time). Access has also returned for SLT subscribers through subsequent hours.

Sri Lanka Telecom, Mobitel, Etisalat and Airtel each implemented the restrictions on Monday 13 May. The disruptions has been the third nationwide censorship order deployed by Sri Lanka in the span of as many weeks. Snapchat remained available on certain providers and there has been variation in how the restrictions are implemented between providers.

Similar blocks were earlier implemented on April 21 following a series of deadly terror attacks, and again on May 5 amid tensions in Negombo. The complete set of blocked communication platforms varies by provider, as indicated by the reachability chart.

Each NetBlocks web probe measurement consists of latency round trip, outage type and autonomous system identity aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and performance in a given country.

During the series of disruptions in April and early May concerns were raised over the impact to citizens’s ability to communicate and impart information in the midst of crisis. Sri Lankan internet users reported difficulty checking on friends and family in the days following the attacks and the blanket ban sparked a global debate about online censorship and the role of social media in society.

Sri Lanka also previously blocked social media in March 2018, for over a week after violence broke out in March 2018. In that instance, research conducted with the Sri Lanka Internet Society chapter highlighted the unanticipated social, technical and economic impact of protracted digital blockades.


Internet performance and service reachability are determined via NetBlocks web probe privacy-preserving analytics. Each measurement consists of latency round trip time, outage type and autonomous system number aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and latency in a given country. Network providers and locations are enumerated as vantage point pairs. The root cause of a service outage may be additionally corroborated by means of traffic analysis and manual testing as detailed in the report.

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