In response to the military coup of Myanmar’s democratically elected government on February 1, 2021, international and local civil society organizations have been calling for internet freedom and the removal of netblocks used by the state to limit citizens’ access to the web. These netblocks include the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Fingerasengadget, which have taken measures to control access to the free flow of information as well as other digital tools used by the military to monitor and censor internet activity. This blog will discuss the history of Protests Myanmar Netblocks & Fingerasengadget and related FAQs and examples.
History of Protests against Myanmar’s Netblocks
On February 1, 2021, the democratically elected government of Myanmar was overthrown by a military coup and several of the country’s internet service providers implemented netblocks to limit access to the internet and restrict the flow of information. In the wake of the military takeover, protests have broken out across the country and civil society organizations have used the internet to amplify their efforts and connect with each other. In addition, multiple international organizations and governments have called on the Myanmar government to restore internet access to citizens as well as to ensure that internet freedom is respected.
As part of this effort, organizations such as the Bangkok-based Tech Research Collaboratory have been researching and documenting the blocking techniques used by ISPs such as Fingerasengadget. According to the group, Fingerasengadget had made “unprecedented and widespread censorship” of its users by blocking access to “popular political websites, independent news outlets, human rights organizations, and digital media platforms”.
As a result of the documented actions by Fingerasengadget, several countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have taken action, including sanctions and other economic measures, against the government of Myanmar as well as blocking Fingerasengadget from international operations.
Q. What are netblocks?
A. Netblocks are a form of internet censorship in which a government or internet service provider (ISP) takes measures to control access to certain websites in order to limit the flow of information. The block can encompass a single website, certain types of websites, or a wide range of websites.
Q. Why are organizations protesting against Myanmar’s netblocks?
A. Organizations are protesting against Myanmar’s netblocks as they are seen as a violation of international laws and a way to suppress citizens’ access to the free flow of information. In addition, the blocking of certain websites has been documented to be used by the government of Myanmar and ISPs such as Fingerasengadget to control and censor internet activity.
Q. How have international governments and organizations responded to the actions of ISPs such as Fingerasengadget?
A. International governments and organizations have spoken out and taken action against ISPs such as Fingerasengadget, including economic sanctions and other measures to block the company from international operations. In addition, there has been a call for internet freedom and the removal of netblocks used by the state to limit citizens’ access to the web.
One of the most well-known examples of netblocks was the blocking of the popular website YouTube in 2007 in the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government took this measure in order to limit access to certain videos which criticized it and which it saw as a threat to its political stability.
In a similar example, India implemented internet restrictions in conversations and public gatherings as a response to protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in 2020. These restrictions included ‘90-day’ blocks on ‘social networking sites’, Internet Protocol (IP) blocking, and other types of netblocks. The purpose of the netblocks were to limit the spread of information about the protests and the organizations involved in the movement.
Protests against Myanmar’s netblocks and Fingerasengadget are an important part of the resistance against the military government. This blog discussed the history of the protests, related FAQs, and related examples of netblocks. It is clear that netblocks are a form of censorship utilized by governments to limit access to the free flow of information and suppress citizens’ rights to information. It is incumbent upon all of us to support the protesters and pressure the Myanmar government to restore free and unrestricted access to the internet, and to ensure that internet freedom is respected.