back to article WhatsApp pulls plug on Taliban helpline, shuts down official-looking accounts

For months, Facebook's WhatsApp paid no attention to the way the Taliban used the messaging service to sell surrender to the people of Afghanistan. After reestablishing control of Afghanistan with minimal armed resistance, the Taliban, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity since 2002, took over the capital city of …

  1. seven of five

    One could say...

    ...they have been Tali-banned *Ba-dum-tisch*

    (and now run like I never ran before)

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    Supporters of corruption, racism, extreme views and mysogynistic policies

    And then there's the Taliban!

  3. Chris G

    I strongly suggest that Mr Zuckerborg should go to Kabul and engage with the Taliban leaders in order to get a full on the ground picture of their aims and social media needs.

    Withdrawing the account now looks to me more like a publicity move that is somewhat late in the day rather than an ethical move.

    Can anyone in the FB empire even spell ethics?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Facebook et al. don't care who uses their product as long as it gets them eyes looking at their adverts or data to flog.

      Bans like this is really obviously doing the absolute minimum they can get away with doing. Nobody cared before the Taliban took over about their use of Whatsapp or Facebook, it's only when it comes into the general public eye that any steps are taken.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Also, they failed to remove propaganda channels, before the coup, but a channel for victims to report crimes is closed down?

      Somebody needs to get their priorities right.

      Whilst I don't support what the Taliban stand for or how they have taken control, surely closing down the channel for reporting looters etc. is the wrong thing to do, in an already unstable situation?

      I think that sends a worrying message.

    3. DJV Silver badge

      Can anyone in the FB empire even spell ethics?

      It's "The only way..."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can anyone in the FB empire even spell ethics?

        e-thicks maybe?

  4. elregidente

    Russian Gov sourced info being repeated without attribution

    > and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly fled in a helicopter packed with cash.

    The only entity reporting this is the Russian embassy.

    Given the source the article should make this clear.

    1. John Jennings

      Re: Russian Gov sourced info being repeated without attribution

      Oh, I dont know - it is fairly typical for a puppet leader in this situation....

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Russian Gov sourced info being repeated without attribution

      Do you have other news that proves such is not true and therefore foreign and alienating fake news, elregidente?

      Can you verify and guarantee the accuracy of the source, ..... or not, as the case may very well be?

      El Regers would really like to know.

      I wonder how many browsers here think such antics as attributed to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani be more likely than not ..... and the following info is what we are talking about ......

      How about a live raw straw poll? An upvote here for Very likely and therefore Probable, or a downvote for Most Unlikely it Never Happened.

      1. AnonEMusk Noel

        Re: Russian Gov sourced info being repeated without attribution


    3. Alpharious

      Re: Russian Gov sourced info being repeated without attribution

      Considering that the warlord had a gold tea set in an immaculate palace, odds are he did have a helo full of cash. Then there is the billions in missing cash that "disappeared" over there.

    4. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Russian Gov sourced info being repeated without attribution

      The "Russia Today" report mentioned that he turned up at the airport with a couple of car loads of cash but couldn't carry iit all away in his helicopter due to its weight. As a result he had to leave some of it behind on the tarmac.

      This does raise a couple of interesting questions. One is in what form the currency was in. If it was in Afghanis then it might just be so much waste paper. If it was US dollars then it might be more useful (pallet loads of the stuf was brought in by the military during the 2000s).

      Personally, I'd list this story as "likely" based on historical precedent and the notion that maybe he was just taking it to Turkmenistan for safe keeping...

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    "We're obligated to adhere to US sanctions laws," explained a WhatsApp spokesperson

    Which strongly suggests that if those sanctions laws weren't there, they'd be happily carrying on supplying the service. But surely it must be starting to sink in that sunny Californian techno-libertarianism isn't all upside, no downside when the blood starts flowing as a result of not-so-sunny maniacs using their platforms for malevolent ends.

    Publicly uggesting that it's only the laws that are stopping you doesn't really help your case when arguing that you don't need to be regulated, does it?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: "We're obligated to adhere to US sanctions laws," explained a WhatsApp spokesperson

      There are apparently NO such sanction laws involved in many of the alleged 'cancel culture' bans done by FB and Twitter and Google (and most likely their 'pwned' companies as well), but there ARE some apparent ideological similarities among many of those allegedly victimized by alleged 'Cancel Culture' bans, allegedly done by these companies. At least, that's the perception.

      Yeah no ginormous glowing hypocrisy here, nothing to see, move along...

      So when will sanction laws coincide with the whims of Big Tech? Would that become a GOOD thing or a *REALLY* *REALLY* *BAD* thing? (See icon)

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: "We're obligated to adhere to US sanctions laws," explained a WhatsApp spokesperson

      Also implies they'll have no problem complying with any other US law outside of US territories. GDPR counts for nothing here.

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "We're obligated to adhere to US sanctions laws," explained a WhatsApp spokesperson

        By George, I think he's got it.

  6. Nifty Silver badge

    A bit hasty? How about keeping your enemies closer? If the internet is allowed to continue in Afghanistan it'll be awaiting the installation of a shiny new Great Firewall per a deal with China. Facebook, WhatsApp et al will be out on their ear.

    Smarter might have been to allow the Taliban's new government to happily use Facebook's infrastructure where it can be seen and even work itself into everyday life of the new government. Eventually a 'Russian model' of the internet may develop. This hasty sanction will push Afghanistan towards the Chinese model of maximum digital repression.

    1. John Riddoch

      Hard to tell how the Taliban will rule; they're making relatively progressive noises at the moment, but that could rapidly change once the world's attention span has moved onto something else. In any case, don't assume a close link with China. China has a chequered recent history with Muslims (Uighurs) and the more hardline sections of the Taliban might not want to be seen to be relying too closely on a non-muslim country.

      Hopefully, Afghanistan can stabilise and result in a safe, prosperous country for its civilians and neighbours, but I'm not holding my breath. Too many political forces pushing and pulling in different directions.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Hard to tell how the Taliban will rule

        not really. They've 'ruled' the same for a VERY, VERY long time. Rewind 20 years and the only real difference between then and now (from their perspective) will be how much better the Taliban now are at manipulating the media and big tech and "the world" with their B.S..

        1. Mike 16

          only real difference

          Not counting them having a _lot_ of military gear abandoned by US and Afghan forces in retreat/surrender?

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        "Hard to tell how the Taliban will rule"

        Really? I thought their MO was basically "men good, women evil", pretty much since they existed.

        They're likely not making any big nasty moves right now as they're having too much fun watching the West beat itself up over how they just pissed away twenty years of promises.

      3. NoneSuch Silver badge

        The IRA did it, but they were ankle deep in blood before trying to facilitate change.

        Once the Taliban consolidate power, I doubt they will stay out of Iran and Syria. They've proven they can beat superpowers. That does not hamper the desire for power "in gods name."

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          > I doubt they will stay out of Iran and Syria

          I think you've got this backward. The most likely scenario (IMHO) is that "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" (to give it its full title) is going to be similar to "The Islamic Republic of Iran". Remember that Iran is their neighbor and has had a 40 plus year head start in managing relations with a hostile West.

          As for Syria, the only alien presence there is currently the US (and Turkey). The Syrians are quite capable of looking after themselves if we'd only let them.

          I think you're going to see a radical realignment of power in the ME. Its not some Machivellian presence pulling the strings but rather the absence of such a presence. After all, what everyone wants is their version of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" -- in short, to be left alone to manage their affairs. We've been messing with numerous countries for nigh on a century with our 'containment' strategies and maybe its time to stop and figure out something better.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The Machiavelli in chief is MBS sitting safely in Saudi, exporting their extremist interpretation of Wahhabist Sunni Islam to the world, overwhelming less strict local interpretations, with boatloads of cash.

            Making the Saudi interpretation of Wahabism the norm then allows the more extreme views of Salafi jihadists (such as al-Qaeda and Daesh) and the Taliban to develop as just outside the new normal.

            this extreme interpretation of the Quran is far from the central tenants of the Sunni and further from those of the Shia who are in the majority in Iran.

            Now I'm not going anywhere near a Saudi Embassy any time soon, but in case plans change A/C

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Abiding Self-Destructive Problem in a few simple words.

    Perhaps it's too much to hope that social media platforms will learn to anticipate these problems instead of reacting after the fact or dismissing them as lunacy.

    A lack of intelligence and a surfeit of arrogance and stupidity would appear to be able to guarantee that a hope too far to be realised, Thomas/El Reg.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: The Abiding Self-Destructive Problem in a few simple words.

      I think it's simpler: do we REALLY want big tech and social media to be our NEW THOUGHT POLICE? Do we REALLY want to surrender control over communication in our society to *THEM* ???

      I say, NO WAY IN HELL!

      However, it would be better for them to get the ACTUAL police involved, when crimes or the appearance of things _LIKE_ terrorism are involved.

      "Hey look, we have a bunch of people on our social network claiming to be Taliban and it looks like people are using this as if they ARE" - then let the cops or even the military get involved, and if a court or some other REAL authority shuts it down, fine. "Due Process", society run by LAW, and all of that. This might mean some local authority gets to have control over local stuff on social media, and gets worked into the administration of the media services, but that would be MORE like REAL LIFE.

      However, letting a techno-oligarchy "just decide for us" to ban (or not) content based on THEIR FEELZ???

      NO. Just No.

  8. xyz123 Silver badge

    Its time for a full-on investigation of the Whatsapp employees and executives related to this issue.

    Some of them will "somehow" have had several million dollars added to their bank accounts from "entities unknown"......

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "follow the money" ? I don't think it's that bad or that simple. More likely they have no REAL motivation to "bother with" places like Afghanistan. Not like it affects THEM.

      (human nature and Occam's Razor and all of that sort of thing)

  9. Gordon861

    Not Sure About This

    Surely the fact that a form of encrypted communication was authorised by use to contact the Taliban, and by them, would also mean that it would be legal for everyone to have this communication system on their phones?

    This would mean that as well as reporting to the Taliban local problems, it would also allow encrypted communications inside and outside the country.

    Now that the software has been banned by the new 'government' there is nothing to stop them decreeing that no one may have it on their phone.

  10. Danny 2

    War profiteer

    I opposed UK involvement in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in advance, and was blacklisted for my trouble. Now that I've been proven correct I tried to ask the Ministry of Blacklisting for my career back, but I can't find their website.

    In December 2007 there was a meeting of NATO foreign ministers discussing Afghanistan at a local army base so I went along alone to protest. I made 87 white crosses, one for each dead British soldier at the time, and planted them at the entrance to the base so they'd have to drive by them. I photographed it, great photo, but didn't photograph the dozens of military police surrounding and videoing me. They didn't know whether to arrest me or not because it was quite a respectful act. It was a lot of work, I could not have made 457 white crosses.

    Tony Blair said in 2001 that we owed a blood debt to the US. He didn't send his son to his wars, instead he made all his family multi-millionaires. Does English law not have a 'Proceeds of Crime Act' that would permit us to seize their wealth and distribute to his victims?

  11. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Missing the obvious

    It seems likely to me that Facebook was asked by the US Government to keep the WhatsApp channels open so that the US Government could monitor Taliban propaganda. This doesn't mean that the government was tapping WhatsApp via a backdoor, simply that government personnel could subscribe to the Taliban's channels and figure out what their next move would be and how they were communicating with the general populace. Now that the Taliban has control of the country, the US Government may have decided that it's time to deprive the Taliban of a communication channel or that it looks bad for them to be using a US company for this purpose; it's also possible that Facebook has been wanting to shut down the Taliban's use of their technology but the US has only allowed them to do so now.

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