Myanmar Government Unveils New Social Media App Called MySpace MM

The Myanmar government recently launched a social media app called MySpace[.]mm, with the help of Chinese nationals, probably as an effort to monitor and restrict information it views as critical of the Junta. The Myanmar government developed the app as an alternative to Facebook to reduce the use of VPNs and prevent citizens from accessing and sharing sensitive information. The Junta is specifically focused on Facebook because of its use by ethnic armies, People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), and pro-democracy activists to organize meetings and share information.

MySpace[.]mm login screen (Photo: X/@TheChindwin)
The app has similar functionalities to Facebook, such as allowing users to connect with friends and other individuals, post and share updates, and engage in online discussions. However, MySpace[.]mm does not have the same popularity and trust as Facebook because the Junta has total control over the app. The app’s developers also placed geofencing restrictions on MySpace[.]mm to increase the difficulty for people outside of Myanmar to access the app. Furthermore, both the Apple’s App and Google Play stores also prevent users from viewing or downloading the app due to country and regional restrictions.

Apple App Store’s “App Not Available” message after attempting to access MySpace[.]mm (Photo: Screenshot/Apple App Store)
Blocking of VPNs Under New Cybersecurity Law

The creation of MySpace.mm is part of the Junta’s campaign to restrict freedom of speech and stop the spread of information among its citizens. The government also wants to hinder the population’s ability to network with each other through social media. The Junta placed severe restrictions on VPNs and Internet access in the years after the February 2021 coup. The most significant restriction is the passage of a new Cybersecurity Law on May 30th that allows the government to ban VPNs through Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Furthermore, the law now criminalizes the use of VPNs, and individuals face prison sentences of one to three years and a fine of about 500,000 Kyats ($238 USD).

Furthermore, ISPs are now required to store user data for three years and provide it to the government upon request. The Junta can also order the removal of any content from websites it deems inappropriate. The government also imposed significant restrictions on the Internet, ranging from restricting Internet access to blocking websites of various independent newspapers and human rights groups. Furthermore, the Junta arrested or harassed journalists reporting on anti-government protests, attacks and offensives by ethnic armies, and PDFs.

Analysis

The new Cybersecurity Law and MySpace[.]mm app point to Myanmar increasing its control and restriction of information throughout the country. Furthermore, the government’s recruitment of Chinese nationals may point to a lack of indigenous talent to develop the app. The Junta wants to control the flow of information in the country to prevent pro-democracy activists from organizing protests in cities and towns. The restrictions would also hinder the activists’ ability to connect with other groups to stage anti-government protests and other activities.

Regarding the PDFs and ethnic armies, the restrictions would also increase the difficulty for them to organize and disseminate information on social media. For example, the Junta increased efforts to control the flow of information after the October 2023 offensives, which saw the government lose a significant amount of territory. The restrictions prevent journalists and other publications from reporting on topics critical of the government. These topics range from battlefield losses, low public support for the government, and atrocities conducted by the military.

The government’s recruitment of Chinese nationals to develop the app may indicate that the conscription law it enacted in February is having a negative impact on the labor market. The government has forcibly conscripted several thousand individuals since the implementation of the law in February 2024. However, hundreds of other individuals chose to leave the country or join anti-government groups to fight the government. These three factors indicate that Myanmar would not have the necessary domestic talent, such as backend developers, quality assurance engineers, and UX/UI developers, to create the app.

Myanmar may have hired Chinese nationals because the government views its own citizens, who have the necessary experience, as politically unreliable or untrustworthy. The government likely viewed the individuals who have the experience to build the app as belonging to the same age or socio-economic groups that protested or spoke out against the Junta. These individuals would have an incentive to create backdoors or other vulnerabilities that would allow anti-government groups to circumvent the app’s restrictions.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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