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Junta-induced Internet outages cost Myanmar $2.8 billion in economic damage



Internet outages orchestrated by Myanmar’s military junta to curb nationwide protests against the February 1, 2021 coup d’état resulted in economic damages for the country of $2.8 billion last year. This accumulates to the biggest loss of a single country worldwide from Internet disruptions in 2021, UK-based digital privacy and security research group Top10VPN found in a new study released on January 4. The group is using a special Cost of Shutdown Tool by London-based cybersecurity watchdog organization NetBlocks which allows estimations of the economic impact of Internet disruptions, mobile data outages or app restrictions using indicators from the World…

Internet outages orchestrated by Myanmar’s military junta to curb nationwide protests against the February 1, 2021 coup d’état resulted in economic damages for the country of $2.8 billion last year. This accumulates to the biggest loss of a single country worldwide from Internet disruptions in 2021, UK-based digital privacy and security research group Top10VPN found in a new study released on January 4.

The group is using a special Cost of Shutdown Tool by London-based cybersecurity watchdog organization NetBlocks which allows estimations of the economic impact of Internet disruptions, mobile data outages or app restrictions using indicators from the World Bank, International Telecommunication Union, Eurostat and US Census.

Myanmar topped 21 countries that disrupted the Internet for a total 30,179 hours last year, leading to global losses of $5.5 billion, up 36 per cent from 2020. Nigeria and India followed Myanmar, the report noted.

In Myanmar alone, Internet outages mainly implemented to curb peaceful protests, press freedom and demands for free and fair elections lasted for a total of 12,238 hours and affected around 22 million people, the study showed.

Internet blackouts, social media blocks, data speed throttling

The government controlled the flow of information by general Internet blackouts and social media blocks, or by throttling speeds to levels where anything beyond simple text-based communication becomes impossible.

The ruling military junta first blocked access to Facebook in the wake of the coup in order to “maintain stability,” with the result that demand for Virtual Private Network (VPN) services immediately skyrocketed by 7,200 per cent as protestors sought to regain access to the social media platform, which had been central in organising the civil resistance to the coup.

Following the Facebook blockade, the junta blocked all popular social media platforms during the day and completely shut down all Internet access each night for 72 consecutive nights until 27 April, 2021.

Access restored for ”approved” websites and apps only

Internet access was partially restored after these outages at the end of May last year but has been limited since then to government-approved websites and mobile apps only. Access to Facebook and Twitter has only been possible via VPN since then, according to local sources.

The junta has also shut down Internet access, along with mobile phone networks, in 30 townships in the Kachin, Chin, Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions since late August and September, as fighting intensified between the military and the People’s Defence Force militias in those areas.



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