Afghanistan Moves to Block WhatsApp

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Afghanistan’s telecoms regulator wrote to internet service providers this week ordering them to block the messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram but it was not immediately clear whether they had complied.

Use of social media and mobile instant messaging services has exploded in Afghanistan over recent years. Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of the move and the letter sent by telecoms regulator ATRA was widely shared on social media.

Some media reports, citing unidentified sources, said the move had been ordered by the National Directorate for Security to thwart the use of the encrypted messaging services by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports.

The Acting Minister for Telecommunications, Shahzad Aryobee, posted a message on Facebook saying that the telecoms regulator had been ordered to put a gradual block on the services to improve their functioning after complaints had been received.