Myanmar’s military has ordered internet service providers to restrict access to Facebook in an effort to crack down on protests against its overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government.
In a letter posted online, ministry of communications and information officials said access to the social media platform would be blocked until Sunday Feb. 7 for the sake of preserving “stability.”
Justifying the ban, officials said Facebook had been used to spread “fake news and misinformation… (that is) causing misunderstanding among people” and could lead to unrest and rioting.
Facebook is reportedly aware of the issue and told Forbes it “urges authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information.”
Several other Facebook-owned services have also been blocked in the country, including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Service provider Telenor, which has blocked Facebook in accordance with Myanmar’s law, told Reuters that it had expressed “grave concern” and “does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law.”
Myanmar’s military declared a state of emergency Monday and handed power to its commander in chief for one year. Aung San Suu Kyi, along with other civilian leaders, was detained and faces jail for allegedly violating import laws. Though the military had previously agreed to share power with civilian leaders, officials claimed an election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party last year was marred by fraud, invoking a clause in the constitution that allows the armed forces to take over government. In 2018, Facebook acknowledged that it “can and should” be doing more to “prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar. A New York Times investigation revealed military leaders to be using the platform to target Rohingya Muslims in the country.
What To Watch For
International leaders have roundly criticized the coup, though China and Russia blocked a UN Security Council motion to condemn it. President Joe Biden joined leaders in condemning the takeover but—unlike some foreign leaders—did not call the incident a coup, a phrase multiple news outlets report is under consideration because deeming it a coup would force the United States to cut off aid.
An exercise instructor has become a surprise internet hit after unwittingly capturing the coup taking place in the back of a dance video.