According to the order of the Myanmar military government, local telecommunications operators in Myanmar have begun to temporarily block Facebook. The Reddit report discovered by TechCrunch stated that people cannot access Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp through Myanmar’s largest telecom operator MPT which also happens to be partly state-owned.
In the order of the required shutdowns, the government claimed that Facebook has been increasing instability in the country. Of the more than 50 million people in Myanmar, about 27 million are Facebook users.
As the advocacy organization Access Now points out, these people rely on the site to share information and organize. The closure is expected to last until midnight on February 7.
BREAKING: Myanmar’s government is now blocking Facebook (including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger) until Feb 7 at midnight.
— Access Now (@accessnow) February 3, 2021
According to the Facebook spokesperson: “We know that some people cannot access Facebook at the moment. We urge the authorities to restore the connection so that the people of Myanmar can communicate with their family and friends and access important information.”
The move was made a week after the unrest in Myanmar. On Monday, the military industry, led by General Min Aung Aung Lai, detained the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and declared a state of emergency across the country.
Suu Ki’s party won the country’s November elections by a landslide, taking 346 seats from 476 parliamentary seats. However, the opposition coalition Unity and Development Party, which has ties to the military, rejected the election results, claiming widespread voter fraud occurred.
On Tuesday, Facebook banned an account associated with the Myawaddy TV station, which has been promoting the military’s actions to an audience of more than 33,000 people since at least the beginning of 2020.
At the time, a Facebook spokesperson stated that the company was “closely monitoring political events in Myanmar” and was committed to “stopping misinformation and content that could cause further tension.”
Facebook has a complicated history in Myanmar. The company has long been blamed for not doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation in the country. The company wrote a 2018 report on its own and found that the company helped exacerbate calls for violence.