It’s been two days since the Taliban took control of Kabul, and social media behemoths are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the militants’ takeover of Afghanistan.
Facebook (FB) announced on Tuesday that it would remove “accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban” from its platforms, including WhatsApp and Instagram.
“The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies,” a company spokesperson said.
The first tier of “dangerous organizations” is subjected to “the most extensive enforcement,” according to Facebook. Terrorist, hate, and criminal organizations are among the tier 1 entities.
While the Taliban has been barred from Facebook for “years,” the company has not specified when the restrictions were imposed.
The company claims to have a “dedicated team of Afghanistan experts” tasked with identifying “emerging issues” who are “native Dari and Pashto speakers and have knowledge of the local context.”
“Regardless of who holds power, we will take the appropriate action against accounts and content that breaks our rules,” Facebook stated.
Taliban militants retook Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Sunday, nearly two decades after US troops drove them out. Thousands of civilians have attempted to flee the country since then, with chaotic scenes unfolding on Monday at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport.
The United States has not officially designated the Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The group was, however, added to a list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists and Specially Designated Nationals maintained by the US Treasury Department.
The ban also applies to Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp, which scour non-encrypted content for information on the Taliban and their supporters, such as names, profile photos, and group descriptions. A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment on what happens to Taliban-related content, which is encrypted by default on the platform’s messaging app, like all other messages.
Afghans have gradually become accustomed to the digital age over the last 20 years, despite the fact that there were virtually no computers in the country when the Taliban were driven from power in 2001. As the government fell apart over the weekend, citizens and politicians took to social media to document the chaos.
There is also concern that Afghanistan will be returned to a “dark age” of Taliban rule. For women, their return to power is a terrifying prospect. Females were not allowed to attend school when they last ruled. They were cloaked in burqas, confined to their homes, and regarded as male property.
The Taliban have promised to form a “Afghan inclusive Islamic government” and to allow girls to attend school this time. However, it is unclear whether the new leadership will include women, and there is widespread mistrust of militants who wreaked havoc in Afghanistan the last time they ruled.
Other major social media platforms, on the other hand, were less forthcoming about their plans for dealing with Taliban-related content.