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Myanmar junta bans Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to stifle opposition

Written by Stephanie Pearl Li Published on 

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The Civil Disobedience Movement page garnered over 192,000 followers.  

Facebook, the social network, and other products of the company including WhatsApp and Instagram have been severely restricted by several telecom operators in Myanmar, and are to remain blocked until February 7 to prevent users from “troubling the country’s stability,” according to a statement posted by the government.

The Ministry of Communications and Information accuses Facebook of “spreading fake news and misinformation” in a letter to all mobile operators and internet service providers of the country, according to a Reuters report.

Internet monitoring service NetBlocks confirmed that state-owned internet provider MPT had restricted Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Norway’s Telenor said in a release that it will comply with the order and expressed “grave concerns regarding breach of human rights.”

“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 release added.

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With over 22 million users, Facebook is for most people in Myanmar equivalent to the internet. Social media has become the frontline for the civil disobedience movement responding to a military coup from earlier this week. Civil Disobedience Movement, a Facebook page launched on Tuesday, has garnered over 192,000 followers, with the objective to reject the military authority.

“We are aware that access to Facebook is currently disrupted for some people. We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information,” said Facebook through a company spokesperson.

The news comes shortly after the social network banned a page with links to a military-owned TV network, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday.

A Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters that the company treats Myanmar’s situation as “an emergency.” She added that Facebook will take short-term measures to remove content that could cause imminent violence or harm to “delegitimize” the results of the general election that took place in November last year.

Internet connectivity in the country was severely restricted on Monday, after the military detained de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, together with other senior officials and activists, and seized control of the government in the country’s capital Naypyidaw.

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