Myanmar takes to Twitter to plead
Since Myanmar’s new military rulers imposed a temporary blockade on Facebook on Thursday. Thousands in the Southeast Asian country have joined Twitter, according to app downloads and a Reuters estimate.
Many are using the platform and pro-democracy hashtags to criticize the army’s takeover and call for peaceful protests until the result of November’s election. so which was won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, is respected.
The hashtags #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar. and #SaveMyanmar all had hundreds of thousands of interactions by Friday, according to hashtag tracker BrandMentions.
The junta seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Suu Kyi in response to what the army said was “election fraud”.
Military authorities banned Facebook Inc – which counts half of the population as users – until at least February 7 for the sake of “stability”, after the junta’s opponents began using the platform to organize.
But it took several hours for Internet providers to enforce the ban, during which time activists began creating Twitter accounts and sharing them on their Facebook profiles, according to a review of social media messages.
Out of around 1,500 new Twitter accounts reviewed by Reuters and activated in the last two days using Myanmar-related hashtags. most identified themselves as being opposed to the military government, while a handful of accounts were pro-military and posted links to the junta’s press releases.
Some pro-democracy activists used the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance, to appeal for support to cross-border youth movements pushing for democracy.
The hashtag, which started in Thailand in April, is used prominently by Hong Kong, Thai, and Taiwanese activists, with Twitter becoming a key soapbox for the region’s pro-democracy activists.
Twitter declined to comment on the surge of users in Myanmar.
After the military junta shut down Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp in Myanmar, thousands of its citizens have taken to Twitter to plead for freedom of speech. Internet service providers say they are “gravely concerned” by the ban, and are working to convince the government to unblock Facebook immediately. This ban is putting the lives of millions of people in Myanmar at risk, and is hampering free speech on social media.
Myanmar’s military junta blocks access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp
Facebook is blocked in Myanmar by the military junta until Sunday, a day before the country’s elections. The move comes as international pressure grows to compel the junta to allow the November elections to take place. Meanwhile, opposition to the junta has exploded on Facebook, the country’s main internet platform. Facebook is used for social networking and is crucial to government and business communications. Last night, protesters in Yangon banged pots and pans, an image that spread across social media.
The ban on these social media platforms is likely to exacerbate the situation, as the military struggles to keep its grip on the population after a decade of liberalisation. It also limits its ability to govern and communicate with its base. But a recent government reversal is likely to re-energize the protest movement, which has been disrupted by the internet ban. Social media allows activists to communicate and coordinate their campaigns and get information out to people who need it.
Other social media platforms have a mixed experience with the Tatmadaw. YouTube has a much lower capacity to monitor Myanmar-language content than Facebook, and it has been slower to take action when content is flagged as dangerous. YouTube has recently begun mirroring Facebook’s policies regarding account deletion and has banned five military-linked accounts. The government-run television channels MRTV and Myawady have also been banned from YouTube.
Free speech is stifled on social media
The case of Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, two Burmese journalists who were detained for their work, is a glaring example of how free speech is stifled on social networks in Myanmar. Both were detained after they used social networking sites to publish quotes from ethnic armed groups, and the Myanmar Ministry of Information said the journalists were merely attempting to gain information from government officials and share it with the world.
Myanmar’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the press. The 2014 News Media Law put safeguards on media freedom by prohibiting censorship and recognizing the specific rights of media workers. However, the Myanmar Media Council, the country’s government-run media regulator, does not do its job properly, failing to protect media from the effects of content-based criminal laws. This makes it difficult for independent journalists and media workers to produce quality stories.
Moreover, Myanmar’s information environment is highly contested. Coordinated networks spread misinformation and hate speech, and some users of social networking sites are defaming their opponents. For example, a video shot by a Mexican cartel was falsely branded as evidence of opposition killings. As such, the government must ensure that such platforms are accountable to the Myanmar people. So, how can we make Facebook more accountable?
Internet service providers say they are “gravely concerned” by the ban
The Internet ban in Myanmar has sparked alarm among human rights organizations, who say the restrictions are an attempt to control the country’s information and censor its citizens. The military regime has introduced the Cybersecurity Bill and drafted amendments to the Electronic Transactions Law that would require Internet service providers to store all user data within Myanmar and disclose it without a justification. The proposed laws would also ban the use of international cloud-based services.
The Myanmar government must comply fully with the provisional measures imposed by the International Court of Justice and take concrete steps to address the underlying causes of conflict in Rakhine state and other ethnic minority areas. The ban, which has been in place since 2012, will increase the risks faced by companies operating in Myanmar. As a result, some responsible international investors may delay or even terminate their plans to invest in Myanmar.
In addition to the ban, social media are being blocked in Myanmar. Among the sites affected are Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Myanmar has also attempted a total internet shutdown. The Internet Blackout Tracker website NetBlocks reports that the country’s internet has been shut down for a period of about three days. However, it reports that the internet has been restored to a 95 percent level in some areas.
Telenor Myanmar says it is “gravely concerned” by the ban
The ban was first announced on February 15, after the Burmese military allegedly planted landmines near Telenor towers. The telecoms giant has since taken steps to protect its network and its subscribers by putting up warning signs and discontinuing services near dangerous towers. Telenor has also installed security cameras on mined towers and stopped servicing them. The ban was imposed despite the fact that the towers are owned by tower companies.
Previously, Telenor Myanmar was the only telecommunications provider in Myanmar. Its decision to block social media has raised concerns among businesspeople, including Telenor Myanmar. The ban has impacted business operations and halted investment in the country, especially since Telenor had been one of the few transparent telecommunications providers. It provided regular updates on directives and orders from authorities. Telenor says it is “gravely concerned” by the ban and is seeking a return of service.
The ban was implemented after a complaint was filed by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a coalition of 474 civil society organisations in Myanmar. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations says that Telenor should be investigated over the ban. The Norwegian government’s “Contact Point” for data protections accepted the complaint. But it did not resolve the problem.
Rohingya protests spread to other cities in Myanmar
A UN investigation into the Rohingya crisis warned that social media platforms are a “behemoth”, and that trolls were fueling the violence by posting inflammatory content and shouting down critics. Some posts even posed sham photographs of corpses, claiming they were evidence of massacres committed by Rohingya. Digital fingerprints proved the source of the content was in areas outside of Naypyidaw.
In a statement, the Tatmadaw justified its takeover of the country, citing voter fraud, accusing the winning party of inciting violence. The statement was posted on a Facebook page, which began with, “Due to voter fraud,” violating the government’s social media policy in Myanmar. After the Facebook ban, protests in other cities in Myanmar spread, and police have filed charges against Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Following the Facebook ban, the Rohingya community took to the streets, demanding the right to return to their homes. The government agreed to let them return to their villages, but many refused to do so without citizenship guarantees. A BBC investigation shows that their villages have been destroyed and their homes destroyed. As a result, some refugees have fled to Bangladesh, where they continue to face harassment and violence by local authorities.
After Facebook banned Facebook users could no longer post videos or photos from Bago. Some people turned to other social media sites, including Myanmar Witness, and began gathering evidence of human rights violations. The military began to restrict Internet access and increase surveillance, making videos and images of the protests unusable. In the days that followed, Facebook banned many online activists, including Hantarwadi Media.
U.S. president Biden meets with ASEAN leaders
On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which comprises countries from the city-state of Singapore to the sprawling archipelago of Indonesia. In a rare move, the eight ASEAN leaders will also meet the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who has urged ASEAN to support the rules-based order. Although this is not a perfect fit, the bi-national summit is an opportunity to gauge the direction of U.S.-ASEAN relations in the second year. While both sides have unmet expectations, both sides have unrealistic goals and wish lists. ASEAN hopes to reduce its economic dependence on China while Washington hopes to return to the 11-member CPTPP. However, while Biden’s agenda may be largely focused on
Human Rights Watch also notes that having these leaders meet with the US administration contradicts the goal of an “affirmative agenda for democratic renewal” – the goals of the US’s Summit for Democracy. Without addressing these problems, the ASEAN leaders’ goal of encouraging more democracy in Southeast Asia is unlikely to be achieved. In the face of deteriorating democratic institutions and a censorship regime, the US is unlikely to get anything done.
The leaders of ASEAN are meeting in the Philippines next week after a month-long ban on social media sites. During the summit, Biden is expected to meet with leaders from Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. However, Myanmar is not part of the group, and the country’s top general was barred from attending the meeting. A representative of the Philippines’ government was sent to represent it. The ASEAN meeting coincides with the president’s first trip to Asia as president. In addition to meeting with leaders of Japan, South Korea, and Japan, he will also meet the ASEAN summit next week.