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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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Report: Facebook Shuffles Top Management, eyes Blockchain

"We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties," Facebook said

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Facebook, Twitter Introduce New Guidelines For Political Ads
Facebook, Twitter Introduce New Guidelines For Political Ads. Pixabay

Mired in a massive data breach controversy, Facebook has reportedly rolled out biggest-ever shuffle at the senior management level since its inception — across platforms, including WhatsApp and Messenger.

According to tech news website Recode, Facebook has made long-time executive Chris Cox in-charge of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — now called a “family of apps”.

“Facebook is also building a new team dedicated to Blockchain technology. David Marcus, the executive in-charge of Facebook’s standalone messaging app, Messenger, is leaving that post to run the Blockchain group,” the report said late on Tuesday.

Also Read: New Facebook Warns About Phishing Attacks

The Blockchain team would come under “New platforms and infra” run by Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mike Schroepfer, who will also take care of Facebook’s AR, VR and Artificial Intelligence initiatives.

Facebook executive Javier Olivan, Vice President of Growth, will oversee the third division titled “Central product services”.

This vertical will include shared features that operate across multiple products or apps such as ads, security and growth.

Facebook.
Facebook. Pixabay

“Adam Mosseri, the Facebook product executive who runs News Feed, is headed over to Instagram to become the company’s new VP of product,” the report claimed.

Meanwhile, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will keep her duties.

Facebook on Tuesday announced the appointment of Jeff Zients, CEO of Cranemere, to the company’s board of directors and audit committee, effective May 31.

In a jolt to Facebook, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum in April decided to move on amid reports that he had a difference of opinion with parent company Facebook over data privacy, encryption and other issues.

After the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook has warned investors that more users’ data scandals in the future may adversely affect the social networking giant’s reputation and brand image.

Also Read: Facebook Ensuring Its AI System to be Equally Neutral For All

In its quarterly report shared with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), without mentioning Cambridge Analytica, Facebook said that its ongoing investments in safety, security and content review will identify additional instances of misuse of user data.

“We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties,” Facebook said.

Appearing before the US Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the lawmakers that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was “improperly shared” with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica which has not shut down operations. (IANS)