Myanmar, Indian Censor Cyberspace

Myanmar suspends Facebook and other social media . . . 

In a bid to control growing public opposition to Monday’s coup and restore “stability,” Myanmar’s military government has restricted Facebook until February 7. More than half of Myanmar’s 54 million people use Facebook. It has been an instrumental platform for sharing messages of public outrage and deliberations on mobilizing against the new military government. Despite the military government’s attempts to stifle the protests, people have resorted to virtual private networks (VPNs) to continue communicating. Demanding a return of their democratically-elected government and its leader, the people of Myanmar are also banging pots and pans in the evening, a traditional symbolic method of warding off evil.

India resorts to internet shutdown, again . . .

In neighbouring India, following the violent clashes between farmers and police on January 26, the government has restricted internet services in various parts of the northern state of Haryana. The government also ordered Twitter to suspend accounts related to farmers' protests. While the internet shutdown was intended to contain the region's protests, it was this very action that caught the attention of public personalities around the world, including Rihanna and Greta Thunberg. This internet shutdown is part of a broader trend of censoring free speech in India and hunting down “anti-national” content and people who communicate that content. Anticipatory speech is also under scrutiny. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently ruled that academic conferences – physical or virtual – related to India’s “internal matters” will require clearances from the MEA.

Can internet shutdowns stifle protests?

Under Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar government used the 2013 Telecom Law Section 77 to impose the world’s longest internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin States that began in June 2019. The shutdown ended only a day ago. Now the military government has used the same law to block Facebook products in Myanmar. Shutting down the internet may have the intended effects, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, a region that has remained disconnected since August 2019. But it also has implications on access to health, education, and economic activity and impedes fundamental human rights to information and communication. Both governments continue to argue that the shutdowns are needed to maintain peace and stability.