In the face of severe social media backlash against President Maithripala Sirisena‘s conduct, the President Media Division has a deployed a special team to delete all negative comments posted on Sirisena’s Social Media profiles, especially Facebook, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Social Media observers said the covert operation began after the outbreak of the October 26 political crisis, as the President’s conduct earned severe criticism of social media activists. While some activists staged demonstrations on the streets, some ridiculed Sirisena’s posts on social media in protest of his seemingly unconstitutional conduct.
“This forced the President’s Media Division to remove all negative comments posted on the President’s Facebook profile. They even blocked many people who kept posting negative comments on the President’s profile,” a senior official within the President’s office, who is well-familiar with Sirisena’s social media machinery said.
In addition to strong critiques of Sirisena, several journalists are also on the President’s Facebook blocked list. Chamara Sumanapala, a former journalist at ‘The Nation’ newspaper confirmed that he had been blocked from viewing or commenting on the official Facebook page of President Sirisena.
“Since you have blocked me on Facebook, I pose the question here. What are the economic prospects Sri Lanka has in developing trade with the Philippines?,” Sumanapala posted a question to President Sirisena on Thursday, on his official tour to the Philippines.
Our source from the Presidential Secretariat also added: “In addition to those deleting the negative comments, there is also an operation to post positive comments on Sirisena’s posts. The commenters are paid employees of the President’s media team. They have been asked to post positive comments in order to boost the public image of Sirisena. They do that under their own Facebook profiles as well as under multiple fake profiles.”
Colombo Telegraph found that none of the recent Facebook posts on President’s official page had negative comments. The majority of positive comments had also come from seemingly fake profiles.
The Director of Social Media for President Sirisena is a person named Sameera de Silva, a former announcer of Sirasa TV, a channel owned by controversial businessman R. Rajamahendran alias Killi Maharaja. However, the de facto Head of President Sirisena’s social media operation is his own son, Daham Sirisena, who apparently gives a daily social media briefing to Sirisena at the breakfast table.
“In addition to their own social media operations, Daham also briefs President Sirisena on social media reactions to the President’s actions. How well Daham understands social media, however, is a different issue,” the spokesman added.
Colombo Telegraph exclusively reported in November that the President’s office has demanded Facebook Inc to disclose confidential information pertaining to pages operated by 16 politicians.
The details President Sirisena’s office had requested from Facebook Inc included the names of Admins and Editors, their IP addresses and locations, details pertaining to the engagement of these pages, their demographics, and other confidential information that are usually inaccessible to third parties.