For weeks, there have been allegations that WhatsApp is one of the Taliban’s leading communication tools to coordinate their rapid takeover of Afghanistan. The Taliban even published WhatsApp accounts for police and the Afghan military to request to surrender.
Facebook claimed there was nothing they could do because WhatsApp is an “encrypted tool.” Apparently, that was a lie.
On August 15th, the Taliban set up WhatsApp accounts for people of Kabul to request help or report crimes such as looting. On August 17th Facebook announced that they were de-platforming the Taliban WhatsApp helplines.
Even though the messages are encrypted, Facebook now says there are other ways to determine which accounts the Taliban uses. On Tuesday, a Facebook spokesman said a team of “Afghanistan experts” would look at group names, descriptions, and profile pictures to scan the service and delete other Taliban accounts. Essentially admitting that they could have thwarted Taliban use of their service all along but chose not to.
Aid groups are slamming Facebook over the timing of the ban. They allowed the Taliban to use their service during their military offense, and now they ban them when they want to use the service to open dialog with the public.
The Taliban has been advertising WhatsApp helplines for years. After looting in Kunduz in 2016, the United Nations and multiple NGOs successfully used a Taliban helpline to recover stolen property.