Facebook profiles updated even after incarceration:

Legal experts say prison authorities should take immediate action :

Controversy is brewing over five Facebook profiles operating in the name of former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva, who is currently serving a death sentence for the murder of former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra.

As persons serving death sentences are not allowed communication with the outside world, the former parliamentarian’s Facebook profiles, which have been updated even after his incarceration, have thrown prison authorities into hot water.

Prisons Reform Minister D.M. Swaminathan said he was not aware of the activity on the former Parliamentarian’s Facebook pages, but avowed action if found guilty of offence.

“Precise instructions have been given to have me informed of any matter relating to the imprisonment of the former parliamentarian,” the Prisons Reforms Ministers told Daily News, “Not a file is transferred without my knowledge.”

“I will look into the matter immediately,” the Minister said.

Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa, former Dean Faculty of Law at Kotalawela Defence University and Commissioner of Human Rights confirmed to the Daily News that activity on the former parliamentarian’s Facebook page, was indeed illegal:

“There are two ways in which this kind of activity is possible,” he said. “One is that the former parliamentarian has been given access to a device while inside the prison – which is an offence and prison officials must be held responsible.”

“The second is that some other third party is posting on behalf of the former parliamentarian – which begs the question: How would a third party have access to content from the former parliamentarian, if not through the prison?”, he queried.

“If a third party is updating on behalf of the former parliamentarian, the CID must investigate it,” Dr. Mahanamahewa said. “They must find out on whose authority this party is updating the former parliamentarian’s Facebook profiles, and investigate if an affidavit of authority was given to these people, to act on the former parliamentarian’s behalf.”

“The CID also needs to look into when this affidavit of authority was given,” Dr. Mahanamahewa said – “Was it given before he was locked up, or after? At which point and how did this exchange happen,” he asked.

“And if it discovered that the former parliamentarian has not given any third party instructions and is not aware of how these Facebook profiles are still active in his name, the CID must then request an order from the Chief Magistrate to have Facebook notified and have those profiles censored.”

“This should not be the precedence that is set,” Dr. Mahanamahewa said.

While acknowledging that Sri Lanka had no specific laws governing the conduct of incarcerated former parliamentarian on the Internet, he did also venture that it would be a good time to amend Sri Lanka’s law:

“If you look at Section 3 – 12 of the Computer Crimes Act of 2007, which sets out what is considered a computer crime,” he said, “there is no section relating to crimes committed on social media.”

“This may be a good time to reform the Act to incorporate elements relating to crimes committed on social media, ” Dr. Mahanamahewa said.

Meanwhile, Roshan Chandraguptha, Senior Security Information Engineer at the Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), which typically provides entities with technical assistance to resolve crimes committed on computer networks told Daily News that CERT had the technical capabilities to trace activity on the former parliamentarian’s Facebook profiles, if asked to.

“We have not been informed of this case yet,” he said, “and typically it is the Police Cyber Security Unit that responds to a case like this. If however if we are called upon to offer our services, we can and will. ”

While CERT would not have jurisdiction over the legal or law enforcement aspects of the investigation, Chandraguptha did agree that they would be able to track or request for metadata relating to the former parliamentarian’s Facebook profiles, to ascertain the locations from which the online activity had taken place.

Amila Indika Mawalagedara, a lawyer who appeared for Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra’s party in the murder trial said the action was entirely illegal:

“To update Facebook you need either a mobile phone or a laptop,” he said, “and a working network connection. Who is supplying the former parliamentarian with this? The Prisons’ Commissioner, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Prison reforms must look into this matter immediately and provide the media with an answer.”

“If not,” Mawalagedara said, “they must resign. How is it that only the Facebook pages owned by Duminda Silva and Dematagoda Chaminda are still operating, while everyone else who is serving the death sentence is not? This needs to be looked into immediately.”

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