Myanmar state-run internet provider blocks Facebook services

YANGON: Myanmar’s state-owned internet provider was blocking access to Facebook-owned services early on Thursday (Feb 3), the network monitoring group NetBlocks said, days after the country’s military leaders seized power in a coup.

A letter posted online by the Ministry of Communications and Information overnight said Facebook would be blocked until Feb 7 for the sake of “stability”.

Some Facebook users in Myanmar reported they were not able to access Facebook services including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook did not have immediate comment. Half of Myanmar’s 53 million people use Facebook, which for many is synonymous with the internet.

“Concerned with the situation, currently the people who are troubling the country’s stability … are spreading fake news and misinformation and causing misunderstanding among people by using Facebook,” the Ministry letter said.

READ: US leads condemnation as Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi charged after coup

On Tuesday, the military warned against the posting of what it said were rumours on social media that could incite rioting and cause instability.

NetBlocks said the block appeared to have been only carried out by telecom MPT, which says it has 23 million users.

UN human rights investigators have previously said hate speech on Facebook had played a key role in fomenting violence in Myanmar. The company has said it was too slow to act in preventing misinformation and hate in the country.

This week, Facebook said it was treating the situation in Myanmar as an emergency and taking temporary measures to protect against harm such as removing content that praises or supports the coup, according to a spokeswoman.

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