Sri Lanka's parliament has passed a bill that regulates internet use among its citizens, leading to concerns from rights groups about a potential crackdown on free speech. The Online Safety Bill, which was approved with 108-62 votes, aims to prohibit the online communication of certain factual statements in Sri Lanka and prevent the use of online accounts for prohibited purposes. The bill also establishes an Online Safety Commission, a five-member committee appointed by the president, to issue directives to individuals who communicate prohibited statements. While the government argues that the bill is meant to protect against online abuse, critics argue that it is an attempt to suppress dissent and criticism. Human Rights Watch and the Asia Internet Coalition have both opposed the bill, citing concerns about stifling expression and limiting public debate. The United Nations Human Rights Office also spoke out against the bill, expressing concerns about the broad definition of terrorism and the wide powers granted to the police and military. Sri Lanka has experienced economic and political crises in recent years, leading to protests and a change in leadership. However, rights groups claim that the government has used repressive laws to violate human rights and exacerbate these crises.
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