Billions of people rely on Facebook to get online. The distraction kept them stuck.

But in 2016, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India banned the program (now renamed Free Basics), claiming that it violated net neutrality. Despite this push, it has continued to roll out with less fanfare in other countries of the developing world. In 2018, Facebook said that put 100 million people online. In 2019, Free Basics is available in 655 countries, of which about 0 are in Africa. Last year, the company launched Facebook Discover, which allows Internet users to access less bandwidth traffic. All Websites (not just the Facebook feature) even if their data runs out.

Versions of these programs also exist in Afghanistan, where many new Internet users compare Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to the entire Internet. Even among those who have extensive access to the entire web, the suite of Facebook products plays an important role. For example, WhatsApp calls have long replaced the more expensive and less secure phone calls worldwide. Around the world, many small businesses rely on Facebook’s tools to sell and advertise their products.

All of this means that temporary isolation also has a big impact, both for advocacy firms, such as ad hoc groups helping Afghans flee the country, and vulnerable individuals who are already isolated, such as Afghans hiding, fearing retaliation from the Taliban, and waiting for updates. Waiting for news through.

They are “already incredibly tired and anxious. Losing contact with each other and with trusted allies in the outside world … devastating,” says Istanbul-based Indian journalist Ruchi Kumar (and MIT Technology Review Contributors) who are also involved in efforts to evacuate Afghans. “A number are on the verge of suicide after witnessing the deaths and violence they have witnessed in the past month.” The unspoken confusion of their primary means of communication with the outside world exacerbates feelings of frustration, uncertainty, and abandonment. Losing the opportunity to move on the other hand, “literally life or death.”

For Kumar and Bejan, when midnight passed, Facebook began to come back to life, but even then, some of its effectiveness, including search and notification, has yet to be found. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

But he was also concerned that his Afghan friends might be jumping to conclusions about what caused the confusion. For weeks after the fall of Kabul, there were rumors that the Taliban had stopped using the Internet. “I’m betting they’re making rumors and coming up with stories about how the new government is blocking the media,” he said.

They will not be alone. In response to similar concerns, a spokesman for the Ministry of Communications of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a country known for shutting down the government-sponsored Internet – Took to Twitter To straighten out the record: “Internet connection not disconnected,” he wrote at 4:05 pm ET. “It’s a global blackout that has crippled WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Other apps like Twitter are working normally. The same is true of the rest of the web. “

This story has been updated with details about the effects of chaos from Kumar.

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