The rapid occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban poses a new challenge for large US technology companies, namely dealing with content created by organizations that some world governments consider “terrorists”.

The social media giant Facebook confirmed on Monday that it designated the Taliban as a terrorist organization and banned it and content that supports it on its platform.

However, it is reported that Taliban members continue to use Facebook’s end-to-end encrypted messaging service WhatsApp to communicate directly with Afghans, even though the company prohibits doing so under regulations against dangerous organizations.

A Facebook Inc spokesperson said that the company is closely monitoring the situation in the country and WhatsApp will take action against any accounts found to be associated with sanctioned organizations in Afghanistan, which may include deleting accounts.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Facebook’s photo-sharing app Instagram, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday that the Taliban is on the company’s list of dangerous organizations and therefore prohibits any content that promotes or represents the organization.

Mosseri said: “We rely on this policy to proactively ban anything that may be dangerous or related to the Taliban.” “Now this situation is developing rapidly, and I believe the risks will follow. We will have to modify our work and ours. What to do to deal with the ever-changing risks that are happening.”

On Twitter Inc, a Taliban spokesperson with hundreds of thousands of followers released the latest news during the country’s takeover.

When asked about the use of the platform by the Taliban, the company pointed out its policy against violent organizations and hateful behaviors, but did not answer Reuters’ question on how it is classified. Twitter’s rules say that it does not allow groups that promote terrorism or violence against civilians.

The return of the Taliban has raised concerns that it will crack down on freedom of speech and human rights, especially women’s rights, and the country may once again become a safe haven for violent groups.

Taliban officials issued a statement saying they want peaceful international relations and pledged to protect Afghans.

Huge impact

This year, major social media companies made compelling decisions to deal with current world leaders and groups in power.

These include the controversial former US President Donald Trump inciting violence during the Capitol riots on January 6 and banning the Burmese army during the country’s coup.

Facebook, which has long been criticized for failing to combat hate speech in Myanmar, said that the coup has escalated the risk of offline harm, and its history of human rights violations has led to a ban on the ruling army or the Myanmar army.

These companies have been criticized by global legislators and regulators because of their huge political and economic influence, and they usually rely on national designations or official international recognition to determine who is allowed to access their websites.

These also help determine who may be verified, allow official accounts, or may receive special treatment for comments that violate the rules due to newsworthy or public interest loopholes.

‘Subjective decision’

However, the differences between the positions of technology companies indicate that this approach is not uniform.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube declined to comment when asked whether it imposed bans or restrictions on the Taliban, but said that the video sharing service relies on the government’s definition of a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO) to guide the site’s enforcement of rules against violent criminal groups.

YouTube points to the FTO list of the US State Department of which the Taliban is not a member. On the contrary, the United States classifies the Taliban as a “specially designated global terrorist”, freezes the American assets of those who have been blacklisted, and prohibits Americans from cooperating with them.

To further complicate the issue, although most countries have little indication that they will recognize the organization diplomatically, the Taliban’s position on the world stage may change as they consolidate control.

“At the level of international relations, the Taliban is a recognized participant to some extent,” said Mohammed Sinan Siyech, a South Asian security researcher and doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh, of the talks between China and the United States and the organization.

“If this recognition is recognized, then for companies like Twitter or Facebook, the subjective decision that this group is bad, we will not receive them, it will cause them trouble.”


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