Facebook reportedly shuts down Taliban accounts on WhatsApp

A Taliban helpline for people to report looting and violence was blocked, reports the Financial Times.

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As the Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, WhatsApp reportedly blocked multiple channels the group was using to communicate. Facebook, owner of the encrypted messaging app, told the Financial Times on Tuesday that it had blocked a number being used by the Taliban as a hotline for civilians in the Afghan capital to report violence and looting. WhatsApp also blocked other "official Taliban channels," according to the report. 

"We're obligated to adhere to U.S. sanctions laws," a WhatsApp spokesperson said Tuesday via email. "This includes banning accounts that appear to represent themselves as official accounts of the Taliban. We're seeking more information from relevant US authorities given the evolving situation in Afghanistan." 

Facebook has been previously criticized for allowing the Taliban to access WhatsApp, reportedly a widely used communication platform in Afghanistan, second only to Facebook itself. Security officials have long argued that WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging apps have hindered terrorist and criminal investigations.

When asked about freedom of speech, a Taliban spokesman on Tuesday reportedly called out Facebook for censoring information. Facebook and other social media platforms have the right to remove posts that go against their terms of service. Free speech protections under the First Amendment apply only to the government censoring speech.