Myanmar blocks FB till Feb 7 fearing ‘instability’

Myanmar has directed state-owned telecom companies to temporarily block Facebook until February 7 midnight, alleging that the social media giant is contributing to instability in the country.

MPT, a leading state-owned telecom operator, has blocked Facebook as well as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp on its network, reports NetBlocks that tracks global internet usage.

According to a report in TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson said late Wednesday that the company was “aware that access to Facebook is currently disrupted for some people”.

Several users in the country reported that Facebook was “inaccessible on their phones”.

According to BuzzFeed, Facebook has designated Myanmar a “temporary high-risk location” after a coup earlier this week.

Facebook’s Asia-Pacific policy director, Rafael Frankel, has pledged to employ “a number of product interventions that were used in the past in Myanmar and during the US elections, to ensure the platform isn’t being used to spread misinformation, incite violence, or coordinate harm”.

“We are closely monitoring political events in Myanmar as they unfold and are taking additional steps to stop misinformation and content that could incite further tensions at this time,” the social network said.

Meanwhile, the police in Myanmar have filed several charges against elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi following Monday’s military coup.

She has been remanded in custody until February 15, police documents show.

The charges include breaching import and export laws, and possession of unlawful communication devices, the BBC had reported.

The coup, led by armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, has seen the installation of an 11-member junta which is ruling under a year-long state of emergency.

The military sought to justify its action by alleging fraud in the November 8, 2020, parliamentary elections, which Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy party won an overwhelming majority.

Myanmar has been mainly calm following the coup, with troops on patrol and a night-time curfew in force.