As social media emerges to become a virtual battleground for Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters galvanizing support from the international community, apps and websites are springing up to help local consumers to identify products and businesses associated with the military.
At least 54 people have been killed, and 1,790 arrested, charged, or sentenced during the violent crackdown following the February 1 coup, according to data published on Sunday by local human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Just 10 days after it launched, Way Way Nay, which translates to “stay away” from the military-linked businesses has racked up over 100,000 installs on Myanmar’s Google Play Store. The developer GenXYZ earlier claimed on his Facebook page that the total number of installs had reached 70,000 since its inception on both Google’s and Apple’s app stores.
Currently, Way Way Nay lists a total of 250 military-linked companies on its app spanning different industries including communications, entertainment, banking and finance, beverage, health and beauty, as well as education. The app is set to ramp up the number of entities to 450, according to the founder.
“We rely on sources from social media, United States’ sanction orders, information from other reputable civil society organizations like Myanmar Center for Responsible Business (MCRB), and the country’s investment promotion body, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA),” said the creator who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The app was initially designed to feature products disapproved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), informing Burmese consumers about low-quality goods that can affect their health.
“Because of the coup, people have started to boycott the products and businesses with military links,” the founder said. They then pivoted to a boycott app. “In the future, we hope to build an app that can show not only military-associated products for people to boycott, but also safe-to-use goods that are approved by the FDA,” he explained.
Apart from featuring products, the app also consolidates information on civil disobedience movement support groups which support the striking public servants through donations raised inside and outside the country. It further lists the names of the deceased individuals killed by security forces, and celebrities or social influencers who either support or are associated with the military.
Blacklist Myanmar is another service to spot military links. The app, launched on March 3, has attracted scrutiny from local activists.
“We think this app could be malicious because of the unreasonable and unnecessary permissions that will seriously compromise your privacy,” said the activist group Justice for Myanmar in a Facebook post on Sunday. The app can access location data, contacts, photos, files, camera, calendar, microphone, and phone identity, the post said.
The developer of Blacklist Myanmar, who prefers to go by the alias Red Warrior, told KrASIA that they have already scrapped requirements for data permission, emphasizing that the app will not use or take advantage of any of the user data.
“In the beginning, I was not aware that the app was asking for permission, as I am new to the hybrid programming language,” he said. “To ensure transparency, reliability, and security of the app, I decided to make it open source software, so users or other amateur developers can get full visibility into the code base and the whole community can review and vet the app if any issues arise,” he said.
Despite the updates, the activist group believes that the service might still pose a security risk. “For instance, the app includes permissions to draw over other apps and control audio settings that are unnecessary and can be exploited,” the group added in its post. “The danger remains that the app can be abused and is a threat to privacy.”
“Technically speaking, the requirements might sound scary to consumers, but these are the requirements mandatory for many other big tech apps too. Users can disable or deny the permissions of certain settings that they do not agree,” the developer responded.
Other apps and websites have emerged to capture the surging anti-coup sentiment, including Social Punishment, a website and Facebook page that aims to name and shame individuals who support the military.