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Facebook temporarily blocked in Myanmar after military coup

Facebook-owned photo app Instagram and messaging services WhatsApp and Messenger have also been restricted in the country, according to NetBlocks.

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Facebook is under more pressure to combat misinformation that could incite violence in countries like Myanmar.
Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook and other services the social media giant owns are being temporarily blocked in Myanmar after the country's military seized power in a coup earlier this week, according to a report by internet monitoring service NetBlocks on Wednesday.

NetBlocks said state-run internet service provider MPT and telecommunications company Telenor Myanmar restricted Facebook and several apps the company owns, including photo-service Instagram and messaging services WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. MPT didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The social media restrictions come after Myanmar's military launched a coup on Monday after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won the general elections in November. The Biden administration on Tuesday designated the Myanmar military takeover as a coup, allowing the US to end the "very little" financial assistance it provides to Myanmar's government.

NetBlocks reported the internet service providers in the Southeast Asian country are restricting access to the social network's services to comply with an apparent order. A letter posted on Twitter states the Ministry of Transport and Communications temporarily suspended access to Facebook due to concerns about the spread of misinformation. The agency didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Telenor Group confirmed in a statement that it received a directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications to temporarily restrict access to Facebook and started to comply with the order. "While the directive has legal basis in Myanmar law, Telenor does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law," Telenor Group said. People in Myanmar who try to access Facebook will get redirected to a landing page noting the site can't be reached because of the government order.

Facebook said it's aware that the social network isn't working for some people in Myanmar.

"We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

The social network has faced criticism before for not doing enough to slow the spread of misinformation that could lead to violence. In 2018, UN investigators said Facebook played a "determining role" in spreading hate speech that fueled a genocide in Myanmar. 

The social network is taking more steps to combat possible violence in Myanmar. Facebook designated Myanmar as a "Temporary High-Risk Location" for two weeks, which means the company can take down content that includes "any calls to bring armaments," BuzzFeed reported on Monday. 

The Embassy of Myanmar in Washington, DC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.