WhatsApp shuts down Taliban helpline in Kabul


Enlarge / Experts in the area mentioned shutting down the WhatsApp numbers was “absurd” and “unhelpful.”

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WhatsApp has shut down a complaints helpline arrange by the Taliban when it took management of Kabul, after the messaging app got here beneath strain to dam the group from utilizing its providers.

The complaints quantity was imagined to act as an emergency hotline for civilians to report violence, looting or different issues. The Taliban marketed the helpline on Sunday when it captured the town, and has used comparable WhatsApp hotlines in the previous, for instance when it took over the town of Kunduz in 2016.

After taking Kabul, the Taliban pledged to create a secure authorities and to not hurt the “life, property and honor” of residents.

Facebook, the proprietor of WhatsApp, mentioned it had blocked the quantity on Tuesday, together with different “official Taliban channels,” and added that it was actively scanning group names, descriptions and profile photos on the messaging app to attempt to forestall the Taliban from utilizing it. It added that its crew of native Dari and Pashto audio system have been “helping to identify and alert us to emerging issues on the platform.”

Critics in the US have attacked WhatsApp, together with different social media platforms, for not taking extra motion to close down Taliban communications.

But consultants in the area mentioned that shutting down the WhatsApp numbers was “absurd” and “unhelpful” at a time when the army group was in impact governing the nation, and residents in Kabul have been going through looting, panic, and chaos.

“Preventing communication between people and the Taliban doesn’t help Afghans, it is just grandstanding,” mentioned Ashley Jackson, a former Red Cross and Oxfam assist employee in Afghanistan, and creator of a guide on the Taliban and its relationship to Afghan civilians.

“If the Taliban all of a sudden can’t use WhatsApp, you’re just isolating Afghans, making it harder for them to communicate in an already panicky situation. [WhatsApp’s actions] are really misguided.”

Activists and lecturers say the group’s management pays consideration to residents’ complaints to take care of order, and to maintain the Taliban rank-and-file in line.

“It’s long known that the Taliban has these helplines, they advertise them all over the country in response to news articles or NGO complaints about looting, because if there’s one thing they are doing, it is trying to maintain law and order,” Jackson mentioned.

“I know it sounds improbable that these could actually help, but in this really bizarre, fast-moving situation, civilians need all the resources they can get, and this is one of them.”

Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American entrepreneur and founding father of a non-profit known as Women for Afghan Women, praised the helpline on Twitter, saying that her workplace had been looted by 30 criminals calling themselves Taliban. “The complaints commission is asking to speak to them and may come to our office soon,” she wrote.

The WhatsApp helpline marketed in Kunduz in 2016 was utilized by numerous NGOs, and even the UN, to complain about—and get again—looted property, corresponding to medical provides.

Moustafa Ayad, who displays Middle Eastern extremist group exercise on-line on the Institute for Strategic Dialogue agreed that social media bans of official channels throughout this era have been unhelpful, however warned he would even be cautious of how WhatsApp could possibly be misused by the Taliban.

Jackson additionally questioned the timing of Facebook and WhatsApp’s choice to ban Taliban-related accounts, saying that the US authorities remains to be engaged in peace talks with the militant group in Doha, and has signed a diplomatic settlement with its management, in contrast to terrorist teams corresponding to Isis and al-Qaeda. “Why is this coming now, that they are taking power? Why didn’t it come years ago then?” she mentioned.

Facebook mentioned: “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist group beneath US regulation and we have now banned them from our providers. This means we take away accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit reward, assist, and illustration of them.

“Facebook does not make decisions about the recognized government in any particular country but instead respects the authority of the international community in making these determinations.”

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