Internet in Myanmar a 'virtual battleground' as government continues crackdown

Internet in Myanmar a ‘virtual battleground’ as government continues crackdown

Myanmar’s military rulers are seeking to limit Internet access to an internal network made up entirely of “white-listed” sites to quell opposition to their seizure, according to an International Crisis Group report.

He likened the Internet to a “virtual battlefield” where the military struggles to gain an advantage because it lacks technological capability, while social media companies like Facebook have banned military officials and officials. many government agencies.

The report released on Tuesday noted a shrinking room for online dissent and social media abuse to spread hatred against the Muslim minority in Rakhine, western Myanmar, under the elected government of Aung San. Suu Kyi, who was toppled in a February 1 coup. Authorities have since imposed overnight internet shutdowns and sought to limit access to social media platforms.

International telecommunications companies such as Telenor in Norway and other companies have protested the measures, which they say are crippling business activity and reversed years of progress towards Myanmar’s integration into the global economy.

The coup halted a ten-year hesitant move towards a democratically elected civilian government after decades of military rule that began shortly after the country, also known as Burma, gained independence from the Britain.

This infuriated a generation of young Burmese who grew up in relative freedom, with access to cellphones, social media and the internet as the country moved into the mobile age, with a heavy reliance on internet services that the usually found in wealthier countries.

The junta has ordered mobile operators and internet service providers to restrict access to certain websites and virtual private networks, or VPNs, which can bypass internet filtering. It is gradually speeding up downtime, limiting access to only fiber data connections that are only available to a fraction of the population.

Many tech-savvy young people are involved in the civil disobedience movement against the coup, and the military does not have the kind of capabilities that China has developed over the past decades, allowing it to control the internet and to control the Internet. ‘prohibit access to certain sites, the international crisis. The group report says.

So instead, the military, also known as Tatmadaw, is developing an “intranet” for the interior of the country that allows mobile access only to approved or “whitelisted” applications, he says. These could include online banking, for example.

This “inevitably limits its ability to offer anything other than the most basic services, with a major impact on the economy,” the report said.

Last week Telenor, which is Myanmar’s only western mobile operator, issued a statement opposing such trends.

“Myanmar’s superior connectivity is based on the combined experience of almost every other country: Open Internet access fuels growth. Whitelisting is a practice that will not provide the same benefits – and should be abandoned, ”Telenor said.

He noted a KPMG estimate that expanding access to mobile communications and the Internet had boosted Myanmar’s economic growth by more than 5 percent.

Telenor recently announced that it is canceling the value of its Myanmar business, worth around $ 780 million. But he said he has no plans to step down and is still adding subscribers.

Burmese authorities appear to be finalizing the details of a cybersecurity bill that foreign companies and other groups say would increase the risks of doing business there.

The International Crisis Group report urged businesses and governments to be careful not to encourage the military’s efforts to control the internet and suppress the opposition.

Governments should in the meantime step up arms embargoes to prevent the provision of dual civil-military technology that can be used to quell political dissent, he said.