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Myanmar’s military leaders are extending their internet restrictions in an attempt to curb protests against their coup. According to BBC News, NetBlocks has found that Myanmar has imposed a “near-total internet shutdown” in the country since the morning of February 6. Connectivity was just 16 percent of normal levels, NetBlocks said. Residents used VPNs to get around earlier content bans, but the blackout rules them out for most people.
The shutdown came just hours after Myanmar blocked Instagram and Twitter, expanding a ban that previously targeted Facebook. On February 2, the Ministry of Information claimed that users were using social media to “incite noise”.
It is uncertain if and when the military regime will lift the restrictions. However, this is unlikely in the near future as widespread protests continue despite the new measures.
Unfortunately, Myanmar uses a familiar strategy. As Iran, Egypt and several other countries have tried to do in the past, the country’s military is clearly betting that the internet blackout will prevent protesters from mobilizing or documenting events. But as we’ve seen in the past, committed pro-democracy advocates often find technological solutions or protest regardless – if anything, the shutdowns could create a backlash.