Myanmar's New Government Blocks Facebook After Military Coup

Military vehicles take position on a blockaded road near Myanmar’s Parliament in Naypyidaw on February 4, 2021.
Military vehicles take position on a blockaded road near Myanmar’s Parliament in Naypyidaw on February 4, 2021.
Photo: STR/AFP (Getty Images)

Myanmar’s new government has ordered internet providers in the country to block Facebook in an attempt to quell dissent following a successful military coup earlier this week, according to internet-monitoring service NetBlocks and internet company Telenor Myanmar.

Roughly half of Myanmar’s population of 55 million people use Facebook, according to Burmese news site Irrawaddy, and those people are currently being redirected to a landing page explaining that the government has banned the site. It’s not yet clear how long the ban will last.

Telenor Myanmar, a local internet provider with headquarters in Norway, confirmed to Gizmodo early Thursday it had been told by the military government it needed to block Facebook.

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“All mobile operators, international gateways and internet service providers in Myanmar received a directive on 3 February 2021 from the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) to temporarily block social media service Facebook,” a spokesperson from Telenor told Gizmodo in an emailed statement.

“While the directive has legal basis in Myanmar law, Telenor does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law,” the statement continued. “Telenor Myanmar has decided to comply with the directive on 4 February 2021, while expressing grave concerns regarding breach of human rights.”

There are reportedly outages of WhatsApp and Instagram as well, though Telenor could not confirm the company had been asked to block any sites beyond Facebook.

The democratically elected government of Myanmar was ousted in a military coup on Monday and civilian leaders were placed under arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi, who became Myanmar’s highest ranking leader in 2016, faces bizarre charges of owning illegally acquired walkie talkies. Early reports on Wednesday alleged that she’d be tried for treason, but that charge has not been formally levied by the new military government. At least not yet.

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Terms like “democracy,” “stay at home movement,” and “Save Myanmar” have all been popular on Burmese social media over the past few days, which obviously would make military authorities in Myanmar quite nervous. Internet providers in Myanmar are not happy about blocking Facebook but there’s not much they can do at this point following a military coup.

“Telenor Group believes in open communication,” the company said in a statement to Gizmodo. “Together with Telenor Myanmar we are actively looking to restore access to Facebook as soon as possible.”

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

rvincent1960
Times up, time to leave!

Please don’t legitimize this illegal coup with the term government. They are not even a military junta as they are totally controlled by the corrupt dictator Min Aung Hlaing.

This is the same Min Aung Hlaing that planned and executed the ethnic purging of the Rohingya and has been waiting for any excuse to oust the popular elected NLD party lead by Aung San Suu Kyi. That the NLD had the audacity to win around 80% of the vote in November was too much for Min Aung Hlaing who could see any remaining support of his military by the people slipping away.