Myanmar has been in the news lately—the military in the Southeast Asian country seized power in a coup that has attracted widespread condemnation from countries. Now, the military government is going all out for social media companies. Shortly after blocking Facebook apparently to silence the voice of the people, the government has again ordered that Instagram and Twitter be blocked “until further notice.”
Prior to being blocked, Facebook users had been reportedly using the platform to protest the coup. Users, according to WSJ, were using the platform to share images of themselves giving the three-finger salute that has now become associated with resistance in the region.
“All mobile operators, international gateways and internet service providers in Myanmar received a directive on 5 February 2021 from the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) to, until further notice, block the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram,” Norwegian telecom company Telenor said in a statement per The Verge.
During the course of the week, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information had issues a statement a day after the military seized power. In the statement, the ministry instructed people not to spread rumors on social media. According to CNN, the ministry in the statement made available on Tuesday said:
“Some media and public are spreading rumors on social media conducting gatherings to incite rowdiness and issuing statements which can cause unrest. We would like to urge the public not to carry out these acts and would like to notify the public to cooperate with the government in accordance with the existing laws.”
Responding to the order blocking its platform, a Twitter spokesperson in an email per The Verge said the order “undermines the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard. The Open Internet is increasingly under threat around the world. We will continue to advocate to end destructive government-led shutdowns.”
Social media companies have always been at the receiving end of repressive governments. The case of Myanmar is not the first, and probably not the last. In 2018, both Instagram and Telegram were blocked in Iran on the orders of the Iranian authorities.
The Iranian government hinged its decision to block the messaging apps on security. According to state-run media, the move was encouraged by the need to “maintain tranquility and security of society.”
Apparently, authorities in that country followed that line of action in response to widespread protests ongoing in Iran. Not the first time though—Facebook was banned in 2009 by the Iranian government after protests erupted following the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.