Facebook Problems Coincide With Curfew in Burma

By The Irrawaddy 4 July 2014

RANGOON — Facebook went down in Burma on Thursday night until Friday morning, with IT experts speculating that the government blocked access to prevent people from posting hate speech and fueling further unrest in Mandalay.

The social media site could not be accessed during the hours of a government-imposed curfew in Burma’s second-biggest city between 9 pm and 5 am.

“Facebook was stopped from 9 pm last night to about 4 am this morning,” said Htike Htike Aung, program manager of the Myanmar ICT Development Organization (MIDO), an NGO that advocates for free speech and offers ICT trainings. She said she checked to see whether the problem was also affecting Facebook users in other countries.

“The site wasn’t working in some other countries, too, but only for a short while, for a few minutes,” she said. “Here, the problem lasted for about seven hours. This may have been related to the Mandalay conflict.”

Clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Mandalay began on Tuesday night, after rumors circulated online that a Buddhist woman had been raped by her Muslim employees. The rape allegations were widely circulated on Facebook, including by nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who leads an anti-Muslim movement known as 969.

Five people were injured during the first night of clashes. As rioting continued on Wednesday night, two people were killed and at least 11 others were injured, according to government officials.

An official at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on Friday declined to comment on the Facebook problems.