Myanmar’s shutdown on the Internet is an act of “serious self-harm”.
From June 2019 As of this February, 1.4 million people in the Rakhine state of Myanmar had the longest Internet closure ordered by the government in history, targeting the Rohingya ethnic minority, who make up the majority of Rakhine’s population. The blackout of the connection finally ended in early February, with the removal of democratically elected officials from the Myanmar military and the takeover of the country a few days later. But the break was short.
Over the past two months, the military junta has continued to use digital control mechanisms established by previous regimes in Myanmar, increased platform blocking and digital censorship across Myanmar and launched various combinations of mobile data and wireless broadband disruptions, including various nighttime connectivity. blackouts for 46 consecutive days. On the night of the 47th, this Friday, at 1:00 am, the government ordered all telecommunications to cut off Internet access to wireless and mobile phones across the country. More than 24 hours later, he did not return.
“What the authorities are doing in the online environment is a reflection of the repression that has taken place in the offline environment,” says Oliver Spencer, a free human rights adviser at the Myanmar Home Expression Group. “They are destroying businesses, conducting sweeps, arbitrarily rounding people up and shooting people. Their goal is to spread so much fear, unrest, because the opposition is dying, because people’s fear overcomes anger. Closing the Internet is the only indicator of absolute power.
Authorities have made wired Internet access available for banks, large corporations and junta operations to maintain some connections. But the majority of Myanmar’s 54 million citizens, as well as small and medium-sized businesses and the concert economy, rely on mobile data and wireless broadband access to their internet. Physical telephone, coaxial cable or fiber optic connections are rare in the country.
In addition to stifling digital speech, communication and rights, non-discriminatory internet blackouts are destroying Myanmar’s economy, disrupting the remote school associated with the pandemic and disrupting health care.
“Internet outages are a harsh way to control information, and the impact it creates is enormous and devastating,” says Isabel Linzer, a U.S.-based digital rights and democracy research analyst at the Freedom House digital group.
No one knows how long the blackout on the internet will last. The law that allows authorities to cut off telecommunications service is only written to order temporary interruptions with a specific end date. But just the military he said The service will be “temporarily suspended from today until a warning is issued” to dismiss this requirement.
In recent weeks, as in several years, the people of Myanmar have spread awareness about the solutions to government censorship and efforts to block sites, Tools like VPNs, Tor browser, and encrypted communication platforms like the end like Signal. Before the blackout on the Internet, sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Wikipedia ads were blocked along with numerous news sites.
In preparation for a complete international shutdown of the Internet, Free Expression Myanmar’s Spencer says some activists have made an effort to install as many physical connections to the internet as possible so that communities can maintain a small amount of shared connectivity. And some people or companies that already had one of those weird physical connections have been opening their doors to share the resource. People have also been teaching each other about apps like Bridgefy and FireChat Used in protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020, which use Bluetooth networks based on proximity, rather than the Internet, to send messages.
“The people of Myanmar are rich,” says Amira Harb, a former U.S. intelligence agent and threat researcher who has researched Myanmar’s Internet use for IntSights. “They are not afraid, or I should say many are reasonably afraid, but they are brave. They are pushing against everything and finding ways to ask for solidarity and international support.”