With the Taliban taking over Kabul, Afghanistan, WhatsApp recently shut down communication channels the group was using as well as a Taliban-established hotline number that was promoted as a way to report violence and looting. The encrypted messaging app similarly blocked other "official Taliban channels", the Financial Times reported.
A WhatsApp spokesperson clarified that the instant messaging company pulled the plug on the helpline to follow U.S. sanctions.
"We're obligated to adhere to U.S. sanctions laws. This includes banning accounts that appear to represent themselves as official accounts of the Taliban. We're seeking more information from relevant U.S. authorities given the evolving situation in Afghanistan," the spokesperson said.
WhatsApp stated that it was examining group names, descriptions and profile pictures on its platform to prevent the Taliban from using it.
Credit: Brett Jordan on Unsplash
WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook drew flak for letting the Taliban use WhatsApp, which is the second-most popular communication platform in Afghanistan, with Facebook taking the lead in that regard.
In light of the Taliban’s capture of Afghanistan, Facebook banned the group on all of its platforms in compliance with its "Dangerous Individuals and Organizations" policy. Content that supports or praises the Taliban will also be taken down.
The tech giant stated that it is consulting with "Afghanistan experts" in order to address Taliban-related issues on the site.
In related news, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid criticised Facebook for its content censorship when he was asked a question about freedom of speech.
Kaweh Kerami, a PhD Candidate at the London School of Oriental and African Studies who specialises in Afghan politics, believes that Facebook is going in the right direction by prohibiting the Taliban from its platform.
"Facebook's decision to ban the Taliban's accounts and content is a late but good step in reminding the violent group, living the euphoria of capturing the capital Kabul, that they are (still) considered as a terrorist organisation by U.S. law — and which equally means more sanctions could follow if the group does not change its behaviour," Kerami said.
Despite that though, Twitter has decided not to block accounts belonging to the Taliban, opting instead to remove content that contains violence. Social media platforms are definitely in a bit of a quandary as to how to handle the group; if the Taliban is eventually recognised by organisations like the U.N. or world leaders, it might signal a shift where social media platforms will have to allow them on the platform.
Written by Sophia Lopez