Internet disrupted in Myanmar amid apparent military uprising

Network data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory indicate the onset of widespread internet disruptions in Myanmar on Sunday 31 January 2021 (UTC) amid reports of a military uprising and the detention of political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The telecommunication disruptions beginning approximately 3:00 a.m. Monday morning local time have significant subnational impact including the capital and are likely to limit coverage of events as they take place. Continuing disconnections have been monitored with national connectivity falling initially to 75% and subsequently 50% of ordinary levels by 8:00 a.m. local time.

Technical data show cuts affecting multiple network operators including state-owned Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and international operator Telenor, with preliminary findings indicating a centrally ordered mechanism of disruption targeting cellular and some fixed-line services, progressing over time as operators comply.

Findings are corroborated by users on the ground and journalists who describe being unable to get online and a simultaneous loss telephone connectivity. Geographic indicators from the observatory suggest that outlying regions of the country and technical infrastructure may be less affected.

The incident has been described by sources as a military coup following an escalating standoff with the country’s civilian leadership, days after military chief General Min Aung Hlaing stated that the country’s constitution could be revoked.

Update: Some cellular connectivity has been restored as of noon Monday, but many users remain offline and it remains unclear whether the partial restoration will be sustained:

Update: 3 February 2021 UTC: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and some WhatsApp servers are now restricted in Myanmar on state-run internet provider MPT. Meanwhile, metrics indicate that the restrictions are also coming into place on Telenor and other providers.f

Real-time metrics show selective filtering in place limiting usage of Facebook’s products even as basic network connectivity is restored. Users report having to resort to VPN tools that can circumvent internet censorship to access the impacted online platforms:

As of evening Thursday 4 February local time, technical data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory confirm Facebook is restricted on most major providers. Findings show variations in implementation of the military ban, with some companies restricting access the Facebook website and others blocking the wider suite of Facebook products and mobile applications:

Update: Network data confirm the restriction of Twitter on Myanmar’s leading network operators as of 10:00 p.m local time, Friday 5 February. The new restrictions follow the blocking of the country’s most popular social media platform Facebook earlier this week.

Metrics indicate that operators MPT, Mytel, Welink, 5BB and Frontiir were first to be impacted beginning approximately 10:00 p.m. local time, with Telenor losing Twitter service some hours later:

Update: Saturday, 6 February 2021: Myanmar is entering a second nation-scale internet blackout as of approximately 10:00 a.m. Saturday local time. Real-time network data show national connectivity falling to 54% of ordinary levels as users on major network providers report difficultly getting online.

Worsening disruption has been observed through afternoon, with connectivity collapsing to just 16% of ordinary levels by 2:00 p.m. local time, attributed to a combination of technical restrictions as well as apparent power cuts.

The incident comes amid a wave of protests against the military uprising. Metrics from the observatory indicate similar magnitude to disruptions tracked during the initial military uprising, with high impact to cellular networks:

The internet shutdown has continued into Sunday. As crowds gather for a second day of anti-coup protests, real-time network data show the country remains in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout with national connectivity flatlining at just 14% of ordinary levels.

A partial restoration of network connectivity was confirmed from 2 p.m. although metrics indicated that social media platforms remained restricted for most users. This has progressed toward a more complete recovery by midnight.

15 February 2021: Near-total Internet blackout in Myanmar

A near-total internet shutdown is in effect in Myanmar as of 1 a.m. local time Monday 15 February 2021. Real-time network data show national connectivity at just 14% of ordinary levels, in the third registered state-ordered information blackout brought implemented since the military coup.

The disruption came as tanks rolled out onto streets amid and international condemnation. Basic connectivity was restored from 9 a.m. with a recorded incident duration of 8 hours:

In Context: Internet Curfews

Iraq and Bahrain are among the countries that have implemented daily or nightly internet curfews since 2016: Learn More and see Methodology

16 February 2021: Second night of curfew-style Internet shutdowns in Myanmar

Myanmar has again been in the midst of a near-total internet shutdown as of 1 a.m. local time, Tuesday 16 February 2021. Network data showed connectivity at around 15% of ordinary levels for a second night as concerns have grown over public safety following the military coup, with connectivity returning as of 9 a.m.:

17 February 2021: Third night of Internet curfew in Myanmar

Myanmar has experienced another eight-hour internet shutdown from 1 a.m. local time, Wednesday 17 February 2021, the third consecutive night of national internet curfews:

Thursday, 18 February 2021: Fourth night of Internet curfew in Myanmar

Myanmar has experienced a new nation-scale internet shutdown between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m., Thursday 18 February 2021 local time. The fourth consecutive night under national internet curfew has had near-total impact, with indications that some operators endeavoured to shut down service later than stipulated by the military. Service restrictions remain in place even as connectivity is being restored.

Blocking of Wikipedia in Myanmar on 18 February 2021

From Thursday morning, the Wikipedia online encyclopedia has been added to the growing list of platforms restricted on major network operators upon order of the military junta.

NeBlocks metrics indicate that all language editions, as well as associated websites including Wikidata and the Wikimedia Foundation’s corporate presence are restricted on most of the country’s major network providers. The restrictions are targeted and are distinct from general outages and disruptions tracked during the reporting period.

While no basis has been supplied by authorities, the restriction of Wikipedia comes as the military government outlaws the use of certain words in reference to the coup d’Γ©tat and opposition movement. At the time of writing there are also indications of an “edit war” on the Wikipedia article for military ruler General Min Aung Hlaing in relation to his title and career.

See full timeline of nightly internet shutdowns

Friday, 19 February 2021: Fifth night of Internet curfews in Myanmar

Myanmar has experienced a fifth consecutive nightly internet shutdown between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m., Friday 19 February 2021 local time.

Unlike in previous nights, compliance has been swift with all major providers cutting internet connectivity on schedule to within a few minutes:

Saturday, 20 February 2021: Sixth night of Internet curfews in Myanmar

Myanmar has experienced a sixth night of near-total internet shutdowns from 1 a.m. local time. Online platforms are also increasingly restricted during the daytime, with major social media networks and Wikipedia among the services becoming unavailable to users in recent days:

Sunday, 21 February 2021: Internet shut down for seventh consecutive night

Connectivity has been restored in Myanmar after the seventh 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. internet curfew in a row. The latest information blackout comes as tensions overflow in Mandalay and Yangon where protesters have been met with live fire by the military resulting in loss of life:

Monday, 22 February 2021: Myanmar enters second week of nightly internet shutdowns

Myanmar has come back online after an eighth night under internet curfew between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. local time. While baseline connectivity has been restored, platforms remain filtered with indications mobile data restrictions are now in place:

Tuesday, 23 February 2021: Internet shut down for ninth consecutive night

Myanmar has come back online after a ninth night under internet curfew from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. local time. The internet shutdown comes as protests continue despite severe limits on the free flow of information online:

Wednesday, 24 February 2021: Internet shut down for tenth consecutive night

Internet has been been cut in Myanmar between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. local time for the tenth night in a row. Extensive service restrictions remain in place limiting access to knowledge, civil rights and press freedom:

Thursday, 25 February 2021: Internet shut down for eleventh consecutive night

Myanmar has experienced an eleventh night under internet curfew between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. local time. The new shutdown comes as protests continue in multiple cities:

At 3:00 a.m. some fixed-line wifi subscribers had a brief, unexplained return of connectivity. Service was subsequently restored as per schedule at 9 a.m.:

Shortly after the restoration of service, Myanmar’s most popular social media platform Facebook announced new restrictions targeting the Burmese military, based on its review of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The decision comes as Facebook has been restricted for many users in Myanmar since early February:

Friday, 26 February 2021: Internet shut down for twelfth consecutive night

Myanmar is back online after a twelfth night under internet curfews from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. local time. Overnight, some subscribers of the military-run network operator Mytel unexpectedly remained online:

Saturday, 27 February 2021: Internet shut down for thirteenth consecutive night

Sunday, 28 February 2021: Internet shut down for fourteenth consecutive night

Myanmar has returned from a fourteenth night under internet curfew, with the internet shutdown affecting most users between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. local time:

Monday, 1 March 2021: Myanmar enters second month of internet shutdowns

Internet service has been restored in Myanmar following a fifteenth night under internet curfew from 1 a.m. local time, as the country enters a second month under military rule:

Tuesday, 2 March 2021: Internet shut down for sixteenth night

Myanmar is back online after a sixteenth night under internet curfew from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. local time, in the second month of network disruptions targeting the pro-democracy movement:

Wednesday, 3 March 2021: Internet shut down for 17th consecutive night

Thursday, 4 March 2021: Internet shut down for 18th consecutive night

 

Friday, 5 March 2021: Internet shut down for 19th consecutive night

Saturday, 6 March 2021: Internet shut down for 20th consecutive night

Myanmar has come back online after a twentieth night under internet curfew between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. local time, with connectivity flatlining at around 15% of ordinary levels as network operators are compelled once again to disconnect their subscribers:

Sunday, 7 March 2021: Internet shut down for 21st consecutive night

Myanmar’s cycle of nightly internet shutdowns has now been in effect for three full weeks, with a new cut registered between 1 am and 9 am local time, Sunday:

Monday, 8 March 2021: Internet shut down for 22nd consecutive night

 

Tuesday, 9 March 2021: Internet shut down for 23rd consecutive night

Wednesday, 10 March 2021: Internet shut down for 24th consecutive night

Thursday, 11 March 2021: Internet shut down for 25th consecutive night

 

Friday, 12 March 2021: Internet shut down for 26th consecutive night

Saturday, 13 March 2021: Internet shut down for 27th consecutive night

Sunday, 14 March 2021: Internet shut down for 28th consecutive night

Monday, 15 March 2021: Mobiles left disconnect after 29th night of internet shutdowns

Internet has been cut between 1:00 am and 6:30 am local time. However, technical analysis reveals that cellular networks remain disabled despite the return of observable national connectivity, leaving many users unable to communicate:

Tuesday, 16 March 2021: Mobile data left disconnect for 2nd day after 30th night of internet shutdowns

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

As in previous night.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

As in previous night.

Friday, 19 March 2021: Internet shut down for 33rd night

Saturday, 20 March 2021: Internet shut down for 34rd night

Sunday, 21 March 2021: Internet shut down for 35th night

Monday, 22 March 2021: Internet shut down for 36th night

Tuesday, 23 March 2021: Internet shut down for 37th night

Wednesday, 24 March 2021: Internet shut down for 38th night

For continued updates, please follow @netblocks on Twitter.

 

Fact checks

Smart TVs across Myanmar started displaying nonsensical Chinese letters from around 11 February 2021, stoking fears of a foreign incursion at a time when communications were increasingly disrupted.

However, the phenomenon is a technical glitch caused by the escalation of recent platform restrictions in Myanmar. A NetBlocks investigation has identified the phenomenon to be a side effect of the restriction of Google’s static CDN servers causing Web Font icon load failures in application user interfaces.

The fallback to meaningless Chinese characters on LG and Samsung smart televisions is a known issue, also observed during technical outages in the U.S. and other territories.

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Methodology

NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.

Internet performance and service reachability are determined via NetBlocks web probe privacy-preserving analytics. Each measurement consists of latency round trip time, outage type and autonomous system number aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and latency in a given country. Network providers and locations are enumerated as vantage point pairs. The root cause of a service outage may be additionally corroborated by means of traffic analysis and manual testing as detailed in the report.


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