Myanmar’s junta blocked Facebook and other messaging services in the name of ensuring stability on Thursday as they consolidate power following a coup and the detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The move to silence online activists came after Myanmar police filed charges against Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi for illegally importing communications equipment, and as international pressure grew on the junta to accept the results of November elections won by her party in a landslide.
Inside Myanmar, opposition to the junta had emerged very strongly on Facebook, which is the main internet platform for much of the country and underpins communications for business and government.
People in Yangon and other cities banged on pots and pans and honked car horns for a second night on Wednesday in protest against Monday’s coup. Images of the protests had circulated widely on Facebook.
The social network has also been used to share images of a campaign of disobedience by staff at government hospitals across the country, who accuse the army of putting its interests above a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 3,100 people, one of the highest tolls in Southeast Asia.
The Ministry of Communications and Information said Facebook, used by half of Myanmar’s 53 million people, would be blocked until Feb. 7.
”Currently the people who are troubling the country’s stability … are spreading fake news and misinformation and causing misunderstanding among people by using Facebook,” the ministry said in a letter.
Disruptions were patchy, however. Some people found they could still access Facebook even if connections were slow. Some used VPNs to evade the blockage.
Suu Kyi has not been seen since her arrest in the early hours of Monday morning along with other top leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD). An NLD official has said she is under house arrest in the capital, Naypyidaw, but there has been no word on her whereabouts from the junta.
The NLD won about 80 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 polls, according to the election commission, a result the military has refused to accept, citing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.
The United Nations said it would increase international pressure to ensure the will of the people is respected.
”We will do everything we can to mobilize all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during an interview broadcast by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
”It is absolutely unacceptable after elections – elections that I believe took place normally – and after a large period of transition.”
Addressing the coup in Myanmar was a priority for the United States and Washington was reviewing possible sanctions in response, the White House said on Wednesday.
Police said six walkie-talkie radios had been found in a search of Suu Kyi’s home in Naypyidaw that were imported illegally and used without permission.
The chair of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Charles Santiago, said the charges against Suu Kyi were ludicrous.
”This is an absurd move by the junta to try to legitimize their illegal power grab,” he said in a statement.
In court documents, police requested Suu Kyi’s detention ”in order to question witnesses, request evidence and seek legal counsel after questioning the defendant”.
A separate document showed police filed charges against ousted President Win Myint, who was also detained on Monday, for violating protocols to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Suu Kyi spent about 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010 as she led the country’s democracy movement, and she remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of Muslim Rohingya refugees.
The military had ruled Myanmar from 1962 until Suu Kyi’s party came to power in 2015 under a constitution that guarantees the generals a major role in government.
The junta headed by Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing has declared a one-year state of emergency and has promised to hold fair elections, but has not said when.
Norway’s Telenor Asa, Myanmar’s leading mobile network operator, said it had no choice but to comply with the directive to block Facebook.
”While the directive has basis in Myanmar law, Telenor does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law,” it said in a statement.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone urged authorities to restore connectivity ”so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information”.
On Twitter, which is less popular in Myanmar and remained available, #CivilDisobedienceMovement was the top trending hashtag in the country. Close behind was #JusticeForMyanmar.
Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey
Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.
Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.
However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.
On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.
Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal
In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.
In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.
Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws
It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.
Russian social media laws
As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.
Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses
Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.
The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.
With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.
Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.
Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to email@example.com.