PHOTO: AFP, DENIS CHARLET
Myanmar’s new military government has temporarily blocked Facebook, ordering internet providers to restrict access to the most popular social media site in the country as dissent against a coup grows on the platform.Facebook confirmed the disruption on Thursday and users in Myanmar reported that the site was not working.“We urge the authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends to access important information,” a spokesperson said in a statement seen by VICE World News.
The military said the order would last for three days until Feb. 7, and was intended to promote “stability.”The social media platform has an estimated 23 million users in Myanmar, or about half of the country’s population.In Myanmar, Facebook is essentially the internet—a main source of information as well as a reliable messaging service. It is also used by many businesses. But the social media giant has been under fire for its inability to control hate speech against Rohingya Muslims.Norway-based Telenor, one of the biggest telecommunications firms operating in Myanmar, said in a statement that it had complied with government requests to block Facebook on its networks. “Telenor Myanmar has decided to comply with the directive on Feb. 4 while expressing grave concerns regarding the 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 directive comes as groups cropped up on Facebook organizing protests and campaigns against the military takeover, which began on Monday with the arrest of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. They both faces charges and have not been heard from since.Doctors and front-line medical workers also took to Facebook to carry out their own acts of protest, displaying red ribbons and flashing the three-finger “Hunger Games” salute popularized in pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand.Many users are now flocking to Twitter in response to the suspension of Facebook.Myanmar’s military said it took power before parliament convened to protest alleged irregularities in elections last year that were swept by Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy. Election observers said the claims of fraud are unfounded.