KeepItOn 2023 Report Internet Shutdowns

Myanmar’s iron curtain: internet shutdowns and repression in 2023

မြန်မာလို ဖတ်ရန်။/ Read in Burmese

Content note: The following post contains references to violence and war crimes.

By almost every measure, 2023 was the worst year of internet shutdowns on record. Authorities deliberately interrupted the internet at least 283 times in 39 countries concealing, enabling, and exacerbating violence, war crimes, attacks on democracy, and other atrocities, crushing the human rights of millions of people. 

Launching today, May 15, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition’s new report, Shrinking democracy, growing violence: Internet shutdowns in 2023, exposes the unparalleled impact and destruction of these brutal attacks on human rights throughout a dangerous year of extremes. Read the full report, global snapshot, and Asia Pacific deepdive.

The military is weaponizing internet shutdowns as it continues to launch brutal attacks against the people of Myanmar — blocking access to information, preventing the documentation of human rights abuses, and ensuring isolation from family and communities. For the survival of millions of people under occupation, the international community must come together and dedicate resources for coordinated action to provide alternative access to the internet in Myanmar while ensuring that the junta is held accountable for its repression online and offline. Wai Phyo Mint, Asia Pacific Analyst at Access Now

Key Myanmar findings include:

  • The opaque record: increasingly, shutdown orders came from central and local authorities, hampering civil society’s efforts to track and document them — while 37 shutdowns were recorded, the true number is likely much higher;
  • The weaponization: the junta regularly used jamming devices to further disrupt communications ahead of military operations, and local officials specifically targeted shutdowns in real time to align with military operations and troop movements to effectively keep communities in the dark;
  • The broadening scope: 13 out of Myanmar’s 14 states were subjected to disruptions, with 80 townships facing ongoing blockings toward the end of year;
  • The violence: at least 11 shutdowns were tied to documented grave human rights abuses or war crimes, many of which include bombardments and airstrikes targeting civilians in residential areas; 
  • The hardest hit: shutdowns in dozens of townships across Myanmar crossed the 850 day mark, and in Rakhine, people facing a humanitarian crisis were left with little or no access to information as the armed conflict intensified.  
The year 2023 was one of sheer devastation invoked and intensified by internet shutdowns. From Palestine to Myanmar, the goal was ultimate disruption, and authorities delivered — they hit the kill switch at precarious and frightening times, landing the biggest blows at the intersection of physical endangerment, mental anguish, and community desolation. Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access

In 2023, authorities in the Asia Pacific Region shut down the internet in: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Read the full report, global snapshot, and Asia Pacific deepdive.