Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a new challenge for social media.
The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban poses a new challenge for large US technology companies in handling content created by a group considered terrorist by some governments around the world.
Social media giant Facebook confirmed on Monday that it designates the Taliban as a terrorist group and prohibits it and the content that supports it from its platforms.
But members of the Taliban reportedly It continued to use Facebook’s end-to-end encrypted messaging service WhatsApp to communicate directly with Afghans even though the company bans it under the rules against dangerous organizations.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company was closely monitoring the situation in the country and that WhatsApp would take action on any accounts found to be linked to sanctioned organizations in Afghanistan, which could include deleting the account.
On Twitter, Taliban spokesmen with hundreds of thousands of followers tweeted updates during the country’s takeover.
When asked about the Taliban’s use of the platform, the company pointed to its policies against violent organizations and hateful conduct but did not respond to questions from Reuters about how it ranks. Twitter’s rules say it doesn’t allow groups that promote terrorism or violence against civilians.
The return of the Taliban has raised fears that it will stifle freedom of expression and human rights, especially women’s rights, and that the country could once again become a haven for global terrorism.
Taliban officials have issued statements saying they want peaceful international relations and have vowed to protect Afghans.
This year, major social media companies made important decisions about the management of world leaders and groups in power.
These include controversial blocs by former US President Donald Trump for inciting violence around the Jan.6 Capitol riots and bans on Myanmar’s military amid a coup in the country.
Facebook, which has long been criticized for failing to combat hate speech in Myanmar, said the coup increased the risks of offline harm and that its record of human rights violations contributed to the ban by the ruling army or Tatmadaw.
Companies, which have been criticized by global legislators and regulators for their enormous political and economic influence, often rely on state designations or official international recognition to determine who can enter their sites.
These also help determine who could be verified, who will be allowed official state accounts, or who could receive special treatment for speeches that violate the rules due to journalistic relevance or public interest loopholes.
However, the differences between the positions of the technology companies suggest that the approach is not uniform.
Alphabet’s YouTube, asked if it has a ban or restrictions for the Taliban, declined to comment, but said the video-sharing service relies on governments to define “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (FTO) to guide the site enforcement of its rules against violent criminal groups. .
YouTube pointed to the US State Department’s list of FTOs that the Taliban are not members of. Instead, the United States classifies the Taliban as a “specially designated global terrorist,” freezing the US assets of those on the blacklist and prohibiting Americans from working with them.
To further complicate matters, while most countries show little sign that they will recognize the group diplomatically, the Taliban’s position on the world stage may still change as they cement control.
“The Taliban are in some ways an accepted actor at the level of international relations,” said Mohammed Sinan Siyech, a researcher on security in South Asia and a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, pointing to the talks that China and the United States have had. with the group.
“If that recognition comes, then for a company like Twitter or Facebook to make a subjective decision that this group is bad and we won’t host them raises complications.”