Myanmar’s new military government has ordered local telecom firms to temporarily block Facebook until February 7 midnight, days after the military seized power in the Southeast Asian nation in a military coup.
Several users on Myanmar subreddit reported moments ago that Facebook was already inaccessible on their phones, suggesting that internet service providers had already started to comply with the order, which demanded compliance by midnight Wednesday. (It’s about 4.30 am Thursday in Myanmar at the time of writing.)
Myanmar’s new government alleges that Facebook is contributing to instability in the country and in its order has cited a section of the local telecom law that justifies many actions for the greater benefit of public and state.
NetBlocks, which tracks global internet usage, reports that MPT, a state-owned telecom operator that commands the market, has blocked Facebook as well as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp on its network. Telenor, one of the four telecom operators in the country, said it has expressed “grave concerns regarding breach of human rights” but has complied with Myanmar’s junta order.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company was “aware that access to Facebook is currently disrupted for some people.” The spokesperson added: “We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information.”
The move comes after days of unrest in Myanmar, where earlier this week military took control of the country and declared a state of emergency for a year after detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders of her ruling National League for Democracy. Following the coup, citizens in many parts of Myanmar had reported facing internet and cellular outages for several hours.
Facebook, which has become synonymous with the internet for citizens in Myanmar, has long been blamed for not doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation that prompted real-world violence in the country.
A human rights report in 2018 said that Facebook was used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar, home to over 54 million people. Later in the same year, Facebook executives agreed that they hadn’t done enough.
BuzzFeed News reported this week that Facebook executives have now pledged to take proactive content moderation steps in Myanmar, which they termed as “Temporary High-Risk Location.”