Myanmar coup: How Facebook became the ‘digital tea shop’

In Myanmar, Facebook is the internet, so when the military asked for it to be blocked for the sake of “stability” it sent a shockwave through the country.

As Myanmar’s military seized control in a coup on February 1, many Burmese watched events unfold on Facebook in real-time. It’s the primary source of information and news, where businesses operate and how authorities disseminate vital information.

Its ubiquity means it plays an outsized role in what information is amplified and its real-world impact.

Entering the country in 2010, Facebook initially allowed its app to be used without incurring data charges, so it gained rapid popularity. It came pre-loaded on phones and was a cultural fit.

Political analyst Richard Horsey said, “During the years of censorship, if you wanted to know what was going on you had to go down to the tea shop and chat with people. When Facebook came along it gelled with that way of doing things – a digital tea shop.”

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