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Myanmar shuts down internet to stifle anti-coup protests

Engadget logo Engadget 2/6/2021 Jon Fingas
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 6, 2021. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP) (Photo by YE AUNG THU/afp/AFP via Getty Images) Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 6, 2021. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP) (Photo by YE AUNG THU/afp/AFP via Getty Images)

Myanmar’s military leaders are extending their internet restrictions in a bid to limit protests against their coup. According to BBC News, NetBlocks has discovered that Myanmar instituted a “near-total internet shutdown” in the country a of the morning of February 6th. Connectivity was just 16 percent of normal levels, NetBlocks said. Residents had been using VPNs to get around earlier content bans, but the blackout rules them out for most people.

The shutdown followed mere hours after Myanmar blocked Instagram and Twitter, widening a ban that previously targeted Facebook. The Ministry of Information claimed on February 2nd that users had been using social networks to “incite rowdiness.”

It’s not certain if or when the military regime will lift restrictions. That’s unlikely in the near future, though, as large-scale protests are continuing despite the new measures.

Unfortunately, Myanmar is using a familiar strategy. Like Iran, Egypt and a handful of other countries have tried in the past, the country’s military is clearly betting that internet disruptions will prevent protesters from mobilizing or documenting events. As we’ve seen in the past, though, determined pro-democracy advocates will often find technological workarounds or protest regardless — if anything, shutdowns might galvanize resistance.

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