On 1st February 2021, the military in Myanmar carried out a coup d’etat, seizing power and detaining the country’s State Counsellor (equivalent to a prime minister) and other democratically elected leaders. There was an initial outage during the military takeover, followed by further mandated shutdowns and blockage. This blocking continues today.
Starting from 4th February 2021 (3 days after the coup), OONI data shows that ISPs in Myanmar started blocking access to a number of websites – including Wikipedia, social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and circumvention tool websites.
These blocks remain ongoing on some networks.
The following chart aggregates OONI measurement coverage from the testing of websites found blocked in Myanmar between February 2021 to April 2021 (excluding numerous other ongoing blocks which started before the coup).
Source: Blocking of websites in Myanmar from February 2021 to April 2021 based on OONI measurements.
Based on the analysis of OONI data collected from Myanmar, OONI found:
- IP blocking became more prevalent after the coup. We primarily observed IP-based blocking of websites, as most OONI measurements (across ASes) show that TCP connections to the resolved IP addresses failed (when resolution succeeded in providing the right IP address for the website). This censorship technique is primarily seen in OONI data after the coup, as our analysis in Myanmar in 2020 showed that DNS based interference was previously more prevalent.
- Collateral damage as a result of IP blocks. IP based blocking can potentially lead to collateral damage, affecting the accessibility of other domains hosted on a blocked IP address. We found 2 such cases:
- Domains hosted on the IP 126.96.36.199. This IP address belongs to the Google hosting network and includes domains such as www.snapchat.com, www.getoutline.org, www.paganpride.org, and www.privaterra.org, all of which presented TCP/IP anomalies between 24th-27th February 2021 (as illustrated in the above chart). This suggests that some of these domains may have been blocked unintentionally as a result of collateral damage.
- Domains hosted on the IP 188.8.131.52. This address belongs to the Fastly network and includes the domains coronavirus.app and getintra.org, both of which started to present TCP/IP anomalies on 2nd March 2021. Reverse IP lookups indicate that the blocking of this IP may lead to the blocking of more than 10,000 websites, showing the severity of collateral damage due to IP blocking.
- Ongoing DNS based tampering. Even though ISPs in Myanmar primarily appear to implement IP-based blocks following the coup, we continue to observe cases of DNS based interference as well. Many ISPs in Myanmar showed evidence of confirmed DNS blocking (as illustrated in the previous chart), usually resolving to an IP address that hosted a blockpage. Some ISPs responded with NXDOMAIN responses for domains like www.facebook.com. DNS interference was not consistent inside an ISP; some DNS resolvers implemented DNS blocking while others in the same ISP did not.
Overall, OONI found:
- Censorship variance across networks. We found different websites blocked on different networks, and different censorship methods used by different ISPs in Myanmar. This suggests that internet censorship in Myanmar is not centralized and that local ISPs may implement blocking at their own discretion.
- Non-deterministic censorship. OONI measurements show that IP blocks are not implemented consistently, offering additional signs that ISPs operate independently and (sometimes) arbitrarily. Within the same AS, we do not observe IP blocking for all the addresses associated with a domain. One cause of this inconsistency could potentially be the result of ISPs using incomplete addresslists for blocking. For example, OONI measurements collected from the testing of facebook.com on Frontiir (AS58952) show the blocking of Facebook’s IP 184.108.40.206, but not of Facebook’s IP 220.127.116.11.
May 2023 Update
Over two years later the blocking of some sites continues, as shown in this chart from OONI:
The Military is now banning Not only facebook but also Twitter and Instagram to close our contact from the world . I would like to request all of you to help us and we Myanmar people thank you from the bottom of our hearts 🇲🇲❤️ #HearTheVoiceOfMyanmar #WeNeedDemocracy pic.twitter.com/0FXsd7okcQ
— Shin Moe Pyae (@MoeWendy) February 5, 2021
Myanmar further expanded its internet crackdown, ordering a block of Twitter and Instagram days after the country's military seized power in a coup.
The move comes barely a day after a similar block of Facebook. https://t.co/UpDwfvzYoN
— CNN International (@cnni) February 5, 2021
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 5, 2021
Myanmar police arrested 30 people for banging pots to protest the military coup.
The military blocked Facebook to stop protest organizers, so people joined Twitter instead. Many are using a 3-finger salute also seen at protests in Thailand: "We have to resist this dictatorship." pic.twitter.com/g9UafGBKDG
— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 5, 2021