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WhatsApp Blocks Taliban Helpline

Aug. 19 , 2021 (EIRNS)—Ars Technica reports that Facebook-owned WhatsApp has closed down a complaint hotline set up by the Taliban to allow residents to report violence, looting, or other public-order concerns. In the past—as for example, when it took Kunduz in 2016—the Taliban publicized the hotline when it captured Kabul.

Facebook acknowledged that it had blocked the number on Aug. 17, as part of shutting down “official Taliban channels.” The move was criticized as “absurd” and “unhelpful”:

“Preventing communication between people and the Taliban doesn’t help Afghans, it is just grandstanding,” said Ashley Jackson, a former Red Cross and Oxfam aid worker in Afghanistan, and author of a book 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.”

An Afghan-American entrepreneur, a founder of the non-profit called Women for Afghan Women, praised the helpline, writing on Twitter that her office 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.

Facebook gave the following excuses for its actions: “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under U.S. law and we have banned them from our services. This means we remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them.”  Of course, the Afghan Taliban has been a sanctioned foreign terrorist organization, for years. Why shut down its communications channels as the U.S. is involved in negotiations with them?

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