Bridgefy: 600,000 people download offline message app in hours after Myanmar coup

WION Web Team
Yangon, Myanmar Published: Feb 03, 2021, 10:31 AM(IST)

Myanmar coup Photograph:( Agencies )

Story highlights

Bridgefy, which a Mexico-based startup, gained popularity during Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests in 2020, tweeted that it hoped people in Myanmar would find its app 'useful during tough times'

An offline messaging app called Bridgefy was downloaded more than 600,000 times in a few hours in Myanmar after the country's military seized power on Monday and temporarily disrupted internet traffic.

Bridgefy, which a Mexico-based startup, gained popularity during Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests in 2020, tweeted that it hoped people in Myanmar would find its app "useful during tough times."

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Myanmar was plunged back into direct military rule when soldiers detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids on Monday, ending the country's brief experiment with democracy.

Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since the coup, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) last November but the military -- whose favoured parties received a drubbing declared the polls were fraudulent.

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing appointed himself head of a new cabinet stacked with former and current generals, justifying his coup on Tuesday as the "inevitable" result of civilian leaders failure to heed the army's fraud warnings.

The military declared a one-year state of emergency and said it would hold new elections once their allegations of voter irregularities were addressed and investigated.

The move stunned Myanmar, a country left impoverished by decades of junta misrule before it began taking steps towards a more democratic and civilian-led government ten years ago.

After the country's democratically elected leaders were arrested, phone and internet connections were disrupted in the main city Yangon and the capital Naypyitaw and some other parts of the country.

Communications had been restored by late Monday but, in social media posts activists in Myanmar encouraged the download of Bridgefy as a solution to possible further shutdowns.

Bridgefy, whose backers include Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and which has also been used at anti-government rallies in Thailand, is one of several apps based on Bluetooth that use mesh networks to allow users to communicate without internet connections.

They have gained popularity globally, especially in countries which have a history of imposing restrictions on social media platforms and internet providers - though security experts say they can be penetrated, exposing users to surveillance risks.

A similar app, Firechat, uses wireless mesh networking to enable smartphones to connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi without an internet connection by connecting peer-to-peer. It has been used in protests in Iran and Iraq.

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