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Afghanistan temporarily blocks Social Media Services Whatsapp and Telegram citing security concerns

The restrictions on social media come as the Taliban intensifies attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

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Whatsapp and Telegram
A WhatsApp logo is seen behind a smartphone, Feb. 20, 2014. Authorities in Afghanistan are temporarily blocking WhatsApp and Telegram social media services in the country. VOA
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Islamabad, November 4, 2017 : Authorities in Afghanistan are temporarily blocking WhatsApp and Telegram social media services in the country, citing security concerns, officials confirmed on November 3.

An official at the Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, ATRA, told VOA the social media tools will be suspended for 20 days. The temporary ban on Whatsapp and Telegram follows a request from state security institutions.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement is expected Saturday.

Whatsapp and Telegram
The messaging app Telegram is displayed on a smartphone, July 15, 2017. VOA

ATRA has ordered telecom companies to shut down the services November 1, according to a copy of official instructions appearing in Afghan media.

Social media users have complained of technical problems while using the two services in recent days.

The controversial move has sparked criticism of the Afghan government, and it is being slammed as an illegal act and an attack on freedom of expression.

The outage prompted the telecom regulator to issue a statement Friday, saying the ban is meant to test “a new kind of technology” in the wake of users’ complaints.

It went on to defend the restriction, saying WhatsApp and Telegram are merely voice and messaging services and their temporary suspension does not violate the civil rights of Afghans. The government is committed to freedom of expression, the ministry added.

Afghan journalists and activists on Twitter dismissed the statement.

“This seems to be the beginning of government censorship. If it’s not resisted soon the gov’t will block FB & twitter,” wrote Habib Khan Totakhil on Twitter.

“Gov’t fails to deliver security, now it seeks to hide its incompetence by imposing ban on messaging platforms. Totalitarianism?,” said the Afghan journalist.

“#Censorship is against what freedom we stood for in #Afghanistan post 2001. Gains shouldn’t go to waste,” tweeted activist Nasrat Khalid.

An estimated 6 million people in war-torn Afghanistan can access internet-based services. The growth of media and social media activism have been among the few success stories Afghanistan has seen in the post-Taliban era.

Classifying numbers

The restrictions on social media come as the Taliban intensifies attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

The insurgent group also relies heavily on WhatsApp and Telegram, Twitter and Facebook to publicize its battlefield gains.

The Afghan government has lately barred the United States military from releasing casualty numbers, force strength, operation readiness, attrition figures and performance assessments of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, while briefing members of Congress on Wednesday, severely criticized the classification move. He maintained American taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.

“The Taliban know this [Afghan casualties], they know who was killed. They know all about that. The Afghans know about it, the U.S. military knows about it. The only people who wouldn’t know are the [American] people who are paying for it,” Sopko noted.

The United States has spent nearly $120 billion on reconstruction programs in Afghanistan since 2002. More than 60 percent of the money has been used to build Afghan security forces. (VOA)

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Quoting WhatsApp message renders ‘delete’ feature ineffective

"Relying on third-party apps, users could browse the notification log to read purged texts," the report said

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  • If you don’t like the delete for everyone feature on WhatsApp here is the trick for you
  • If you quote someone message then the delete for everyone option becomes ineffective
  • It is also possible to recover deleted messages

If someone has quoted your message on WhatsApp before you delete it, you will still be able to see that message — rendering the ‘Delete for Everyone’ feature ineffective, a media report said.

Last year, WhatsApp rolled out this feature to allow its over one billion user base to revoke messages in case they sent those to a wrong person or a group.

Users can now stop the delete for everyone option. Pexels
Users can now stop the delete for everyone option. Pexels

Users can only delete messages for everyone for up to seven minutes after sending.

However, tech website The Next Web reported that quoted messages in chats continued to show in quotes even after they were wiped.

It said that this is not a bug and is a part of the the feature.

If a user sends a message and deletes it from a group or individual chat within seven minutes, the message will disappear.

Also Read: ‘WhatsApp Business’ Now Available On Android In India

However, if within these seven minutes, that message is quoted then the original message will successfully disappear but the deleted text continues to show in the recipient’s quote.

Interestingly, there is no mention of how the feature works in cases of quotes in the WhatsApp’s FAQ.

This comes following the reports in which researchers claimed to discover other shortcomings in WhatsApp’s implementation of deleted messages.

Users can now also recover deleted messages. Pixabay
Users can now also recover deleted messages. Pixabay

In one particular flaw — discovered by Spanish tech blog AndroidJefe — it was possible to recover deleted messages from the Android notification history.

“Relying on third-party apps, users could browse the notification log to read purged texts,” the report said.

The Independent later pointed out that this approach could only recover deleted messages that were read or interacted with.