Atlas reveals mudslinging social media campaign by competitors

By Uwin Lugoda

Competitors of Atlas Axillia had taken to social media to launch defamatory campaigns against the company following the Easter Sunday attacks, and the company had complained to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Atlas Axillia Managing Director Asitha Samaraweera told reporters on 3 July that the claims made against Atlas on social media sites were an attempt by employees of competitor companies to gain a market edge in the industry.

“Post the horrifying Easter Attacks, certain parties took advantage of the situation and launched a defamatory campaign against local businesses to gain a short-term competitive advantage. Unfortunately, we’ve been at the receiving end of such a malicious campaign.”

During the first week since the attacks, around 400 defamatory posts/comments were made with the use of fake accounts, while another 148 posts/comments were made by people in competitor companies or those with vested interest, confirmed Samaraweera.

Samaraweera stated that while most of the Facebook posts have been taken down, more defamatory messages are being spread through apps like WhatsApp unopposed.

“This unjustified hate campaign at the end of the day is undermining the hard work of the 1,200 odd people in this company, and thousands more; the families of the employees and our suppliers are indirectly affected.”

Hemas Group Corporate Communications Head Shiromi Masakorala explained that around 13 posts were made on the first day alone, and those posts had reached a total of 2.3 million people. She went on to state that a further 65 posts were found recently, 41% of which were made by fake accounts.

Samaraweera stated that the company looks to take firm action against this hate campaign. It has already lodged a complaint with the CID and sent letters of demand to individuals that were identified to be responsible for these attacks.

This kind of civil litigation against this type of hate speech is further backed by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, who reconfirmed that there is adequate permission in the existing law to deal with hate speech.

“We have also launched a campaign to educate schools and the public about the truth. This hate campaign rather, is having an impact on the minds of our little children and corrupting them, and it also affects our economy. ”

According to Samaraweera, Atlas has yet to see an impact on its sales as their peak seasons are November and December.

Samaraweera further stated that this will heavily impact the Sri Lankan economy, as Atlas actively contributes to the Sri Lankan economy. He went on to say that by manufacturing products that would otherwise be imported, Atlas is saving the country around 2.5 billion rupees a year in terms of foreign exchange.

This boycott happened alongside the boycott of several other companies, following the Easter Sunday attack. This was mainly targeted at Muslim-owned businesses and saw several defamatory campaigns on social media sites against them.

The boycott of Atlas followed the boycott of its parent company Hemas Holdings, which acquired 75.1% of Atlas Axillia in 2018.

Reaching its 60th year, Atlas plans to launch several initiatives focusing on children, which would include a scholarship programme and the launch of several new products.

Photos: Saman Abesiriwardana