The State Administration Council has drafted a new Cybersecurity Law affording broad powers to gather data from web users, censor unwanted sites and platforms, and impose jail time for those who attack the government or military online. The bill will require telecoms and internet providers to proffer details on the activity of their users whenever requested. Furthermore, anyone who posts “misinformation or disinformation” intended to cause “public panic, loss of trust or social division” may face up to three years in prison.
Human rights groups were, unsurprisingly, quick to condemn the new law, saying it could lead to a return of the strong censorship and surveillance practices of the pre-democratic era. “Myanmar’s proposed cybersecurity law is the dream of despots everywhere,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal advisor at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “It would not make people’s data, communications, or the underlying infrastructure more secure, but it would consolidate the […] ability to conduct pervasive surveillance, curtail online expression, and cut off access to essential services.” The draft law also saw opposition from local and foreign business chambers as well as more than 130 tech companies.
Meanwhile, intermittent internet blackouts continue. Most users were unable to access internet for most of the weekend, and this week has seen internet cuts at night. In response, Facebook — following a ban of its platforms — has put the blame for “misinformation” on the military, banning several military and military-linked accounts.