WhatsApp removed from the air a contact that worked as a helpline so that citizens could report looting and violence in Afghanistan, among other problems, to the Taliban. The service was announced by the extremist group on Sunday (15), the day it captured the capital Kabul after US and British troops withdrew from the country.
Facebook, owner of WhatsApp, announced that the blockade was carried out on Tuesday (17) in an attack against “official Taliban channels”, and added that it continues to actively check, with the help of native speakers of Dari and Pashtun, the chat names, descriptions and profile pictures that could be used by the extremist group.
Critics in the United States have attacked social media platforms for not deleting Taliban posts on their networks. However, experts in the region argue that the measures are futile as the military group is already effectively running the country.
“You’re just isolating Afghans, making it harder for them to communicate in a situation that’s already panicked,” says Ashley Jackson, a former Red Cross and Oxfam humanitarian worker in Afghanistan and author of a book on the Taliban and its relationship with Afghan civilians.
Facebook argued that the decision to block the extremist group’s communications was not taken by the platform but by the US government. “The Taliban was considered a terrorist organization under US law and we banned them from our services,” the company says.
In addition to removing accounts directly linked to the group, Facebook and Instagram prohibit praise, support and Taliban representation in their posts. The measure is also being adopted by YouTube.