Myanmar Military Govt Blocks Facebook as Civil Disobedience Support Grows Online

By The Irrawaddy 4 February 2021

YANGON—Myanmar’s military government has ordered internet service providers including state-owned companies to temporarily block social media platform Facebook, one day after warning the public against what it described as social media posts that could incite rioting and cause instability.

More than half of the country’s 54.5 million people use Facebook, the most popular social platform in Myanmar. Since Monday’s military takeover, millions of social media users in the country have expressed sympathy for a civil disobedience campaign against the military on Facebook. The campaign has received support from medical professionals, civil servants and civilians.

Many civilians have posted messages on Facebook asking Western countries to save Myanmar from the military regime. Among the most rapidly trending hashtags among social media users in Myanmar are “civil disobedience”, “stay-at-home-movement” and “save Myanmar”.

On Tuesday, people in major cities including Yangon and Mandalay found their own ways to join the campaign of resistance, honking car horns and banging on pots and pans at 8.00 p.m. to show their opposition to the military regime. Many used Facebook to livestream their activities, which swept the country for a second night on Wednesday night.

Telenor Myanmar, a local unit of Norwegian mobile operator Telenor, said all mobile operators, international gateways and internet service providers in Myanmar received a directive on Wednesday from the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) ordering them to temporarily block Facebook.

Internet monitor NetBlocks shows the ‘reachability’ of Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications via social media on Thursday morning. / Netblocks

Telenor said that while the directive has a legal basis in Myanmar law, Telenor does not believe the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law.

However, it complied with the directive on Thursday, while expressing grave concerns regarding the breach of human rights.

“Customers in Myanmar trying to access the affected service will be directed to a landing page stating that the site cannot be reached due to Myanmar authorities’ instructions,” Telenor said.

Telenor did not say when the restriction would be lifted. However, according to a government directive seen by The Irrawaddy, the telecom operators have been instructed to block Facebook until Sunday.

Since early Thursday morning, most Facebook users in Myanmar have been unable to access the platform.

Internet monitor NetBlocks confirmed that Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp servers are currently restricted in Myanmar on state-owned internet provider MPT.

Since the military government ordered the operators to block Facebook, many people in Myanmar have begun moving to Twitter, Telegram and Signal to stay connected.

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