Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of Afghanistan’s move to block WhatsApp and Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

KABUL: Afghanistan has ordered the suspension of WhatsApp and Telegram to resolve “technical problems,” officials said Saturday, sparking outcry among social media users.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Telegram are popular messaging apps among smartphone-using Afghans — including Taliban and Daesh terrorists.
So far state-owned Salaam Network is the only Internet provider to obey the order, which applies from November 1 to November 20, telecommunications ministry spokesman Najib Nangyalay told AFP.
“We are testing a new technology and WhatsApp and Telegram will be temporarily blocked,” Nangyalay said.
“It is not a blow to the freedom of communication in Afghanistan — we have access to Facebook, Twitter. We are committed to the freedom of expression.”
Acting telecommunications minister Shahzad Aryobee said the move was in response to dissatisfaction with the services — something industry insiders rejected.
“In order to improve the services and solve the technical problems of these two programs the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology is considering to introduce a new technology,” Aryobee said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Testing is “time-consuming” and required the temporary stoppage of WhatsApp and Telegram.
The move has ignited a firestorm on social media with users describing the move to block the messaging services as an assault on their right to free speech.
“Blocking WhatsApp and Telegram is the beginning of censorship by the Afghan government and bringing the virtual world under their control in Afghanistan. I think this is intolerable,” Facebook user Abdullah wrote.
Another user Mahdi Yasir said the quality of WhatsApp and Telegram “are great” and urged the government to focus on closing “factories producing Pakistani suicide bombers” instead.
“The two applications we were using the most are blocked. God damn this government,” Abdulraouf Sharifi posted.
A telecommunications official scoffed at the government’s claim to be developing a new technology.
“They are not going to match an international standard app,” he said.
“WhatsApp is very popular because it uses less data and the quality is very good.
“It could be security related (but) if they block it people can access VPNs,” he added, referring to virtual private networks.
Around eight million people, largely in Afghanistan’s major cities, can access the Internet, up from almost none during the Taliban’s repressive 1996-2001 regime. Most do so through mobile phones.
The Taliban frequently uses WhatsApp to post statements in Afghanistan while IS militants favor Telegram.
 


Facebook cracks down on bogus posts inciting violence

Updated 19 July 2018
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Facebook cracks down on bogus posts inciting violence

  • Facebook may remove inaccurate or misleading context, such as doctored photos
  • Hate speech and threats deemed credible are violations of Facebook rules, and are removed

MENLO PARK, United States: Facebook on Wednesday built on its campaign to prevent the platform from being used to spread dangerous misinformation, saying it will remove bogus posts likely to spark violence.
The new tactic being spread through the global social network was tested in Sri Lanka, which was recently rocked by inter-religious over false information posted on the world’s leading online social network.
“There are certain forms of misinformation that have contributed to physical harm, and we are making a policy change which will enable us to take that type of content down,” a Facebook spokesman said after a briefing on the policy at the company’s campus in Silicon Valley.
“We will be begin implementing the policy during the coming months.”
For example, Facebook may remove inaccurate or misleading context, such as doctored photos, created or shared to stir up to ignite volatile situations in the real world.
The social network said it is partnering with local organizations and authorities adept at identifying when posts are false and likely to prompt violence.
Misinformation removed in Sri Lanka under the new policy included content falsely contending that Muslims were poisoning food given or sold to Buddhists, according to Facebook.
Hate speech and threats deemed credible are violations of Facebook rules, and are removed.
The new policy takes another step back, eliminating content that may not be explicitly violent but which seems likely to encourage such behavior.
Facebook has been lambasted for allowing rumors or blatantly false information to circulate that may have contributed to violence.
Many see Facebook as being used as a vehicle for spreading false information in recent years.
Facebook has implemented a series of changes aimed at fighting use of the social network to spread misinformation, from fabrications that incite violence to untruths that sway elections.