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How Are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Dealing With Taliban on Social Media?

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are in a conundrum after Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.

Updated
Policy
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Social media is how many people are getting latest updates about the chaos happening in Afghanistan all week.</p></div>
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After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are facing scrutiny for their treatment of Taliban accounts.

The Taliban’s return to power is alarming and has raised fears of a crackdown on freedom of speech, women’s rights, and concerns that the country could become a hotspot for global terrorism.

Meanwhile, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter are still trying to figure out a way to navigate and handle an extremist group that is helming the country.

How Are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Dealing With Taliban on Social Media?

  1. 1. What's Facebook Doing?

    On 17 August, Facebook in a media statement said that it will ban any accounts praising, supporting, or representing the Taliban from its platforms.

    This includes WhatsApp and Instagram, and said that it would remove "accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban."

    The Quint could not find any official Taliban accounts/pages on Facebook.

    Facebook has designated Taliban as a 'terrorist organisation' under US law and said that it bans any organisation that promotes terrorism, hate, and glorifies violence.

    The company has also dedicated a team of Afghanistan experts, who are native Dari and Pashto speakers and have knowledge of local context, to help identify and alert Facebook on the emerging issues on the platform.

    Several media reports have suggested that the Taliban are using chat platform WhatsApp to communicate.

    “As a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats however, if we become aware that a sanctioned individual or organization may have a presence on WhatsApp we take action," said the spokesperson for WhatsApp to Vice.

    Expand
  2. 2. Is Twitter Facing A Dilemma?

    While social media platforms like Facebook are clear about their treatment to deal with content supporting the Taliban, Twitter, on the other hand, doesn't appear to have a policy against allowing members of the Taliban to use its platform.

    In a statement to the The Quint, a Twitter spokesperson said that people in Afghanistan are using the platform to seek help and assistance, and the company promised to "remain vigilant" in enforcing its policies, to safeguard the voices of those on our service who represent protected groups including humanitarian workers, journalists, news media organisations, human rights activists, and others.

    The Quint found several Taliban affiliated accounts on Twitter. One of the Taliban's spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, has an active, unverified account on Twitter with 347k followers.

    Another Twitter accounts of a Taliban spokespersons Zabiullah Mujahid and Dr M Naeem with 326k and 218k followers respectively. At the time of the writing of this article, the three have a combined following on Twitter of more than 845k followers.

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Twitter accounts of Taliban spokesperson.</p></div>

    Twitter accounts of Taliban spokesperson.

    (Photo: Snapshot from Twitter)

    While Twitter continues to give Taliban a mouthpiece it took action against former US president Donald Trump over the US Capitol riots on 6 January, citing hate speech and violence.
    Expand
  3. 3. What About YouTube?

    YouTube in a statement to The Quint said that the company complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws, including relevant US sanctions.

    "If we find an account believed to be owned and operated by the Afghan Taliban, we terminate it. Further, our policies prohibit content that incites violence," the YouTube spokesperson added.

    It should be noted that while Facebook and YouTube have both said that Taliban is a terrorist organisation under US laws, the country has not recognised the Taliban on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

    US says that Taliban is an insurgency, a revolutionary group, instead of a terrorist organisation.
    Expand
  4. 4. Why Are Social Media Platforms in a Fix?

    This situation has put Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in a conundrum. If the social media platforms remove all the Taliban accounts they may risk silencing the online presence of an entire country’s government, as Afghani people are using social media platforms to seek help and assistance.

    On the other hand, if they allow the Taliban to gain more following of a social media, they could be potentially enabling the ascension of a terrorism supporting regime.

    Emerson Brooking, a senior fellow studying social media and international security at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab told Vox that this wasn't the first time Taliban was banned from social media platforms.

    The fundamentalist organisation were previously banned from Facebook, because Taliban posted violent content about the attacks on US soldiers.

    The Taliban has become tech savvy and now use a wide range of services like WhatsApp and Twitter to make English-language press statements, claiming that it won’t inflict the same harm it did in the 1990s.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What's Facebook Doing?

On 17 August, Facebook in a media statement said that it will ban any accounts praising, supporting, or representing the Taliban from its platforms.

This includes WhatsApp and Instagram, and said that it would remove "accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban."

The Quint could not find any official Taliban accounts/pages on Facebook.

Facebook has designated Taliban as a 'terrorist organisation' under US law and said that it bans any organisation that promotes terrorism, hate, and glorifies violence.

The company has also dedicated a team of Afghanistan experts, who are native Dari and Pashto speakers and have knowledge of local context, to help identify and alert Facebook on the emerging issues on the platform.

Several media reports have suggested that the Taliban are using chat platform WhatsApp to communicate.

“As a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats however, if we become aware that a sanctioned individual or organization may have a presence on WhatsApp we take action," said the spokesperson for WhatsApp to Vice.

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Is Twitter Facing A Dilemma?

While social media platforms like Facebook are clear about their treatment to deal with content supporting the Taliban, Twitter, on the other hand, doesn't appear to have a policy against allowing members of the Taliban to use its platform.

In a statement to the The Quint, a Twitter spokesperson said that people in Afghanistan are using the platform to seek help and assistance, and the company promised to "remain vigilant" in enforcing its policies, to safeguard the voices of those on our service who represent protected groups including humanitarian workers, journalists, news media organisations, human rights activists, and others.

The Quint found several Taliban affiliated accounts on Twitter. One of the Taliban's spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, has an active, unverified account on Twitter with 347k followers.

Another Twitter accounts of a Taliban spokespersons Zabiullah Mujahid and Dr M Naeem with 326k and 218k followers respectively. At the time of the writing of this article, the three have a combined following on Twitter of more than 845k followers.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Twitter accounts of Taliban spokesperson.</p></div>

Twitter accounts of Taliban spokesperson.

(Photo: Snapshot from Twitter)

While Twitter continues to give Taliban a mouthpiece it took action against former US president Donald Trump over the US Capitol riots on 6 January, citing hate speech and violence.

What About YouTube?

YouTube in a statement to The Quint said that the company complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws, including relevant US sanctions.

"If we find an account believed to be owned and operated by the Afghan Taliban, we terminate it. Further, our policies prohibit content that incites violence," the YouTube spokesperson added.

It should be noted that while Facebook and YouTube have both said that Taliban is a terrorist organisation under US laws, the country has not recognised the Taliban on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

US says that Taliban is an insurgency, a revolutionary group, instead of a terrorist organisation.
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Why Are Social Media Platforms in a Fix?

This situation has put Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in a conundrum. If the social media platforms remove all the Taliban accounts they may risk silencing the online presence of an entire country’s government, as Afghani people are using social media platforms to seek help and assistance.

On the other hand, if they allow the Taliban to gain more following of a social media, they could be potentially enabling the ascension of a terrorism supporting regime.

Emerson Brooking, a senior fellow studying social media and international security at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab told Vox that this wasn't the first time Taliban was banned from social media platforms.

The fundamentalist organisation were previously banned from Facebook, because Taliban posted violent content about the attacks on US soldiers.

The Taliban has become tech savvy and now use a wide range of services like WhatsApp and Twitter to make English-language press statements, claiming that it won’t inflict the same harm it did in the 1990s.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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