The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan presents a new challenge for large tech companies in the United States in relation to the content published by the group, considered terrorist by the governments of some countries.
Social media giant Facebook confirmed on Monday (16) that it designates the Taliban as a terrorist group and bans the organization on its platforms, as well as the content supporting it.
But members of the Taliban are said to still use WhatsApp, Facebook’s end-to-end encrypted messaging service, to communicate directly with Afghans, despite the company’s ban 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 against any accounts linked to sanctioned organizations in Afghanistan, which could include deleting the account.
The decision of the American platform sparked a reaction from the Taliban on Tuesday (17). When asked about free speech under the new government, extremist group spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said this question should be asked “of people who claim to be promoters of free speech,” quoting Facebook directly. .
On Twitter, Taliban spokespersons with hundreds of thousands of followers tweeted updates during the country’s takeover.
Asked about the Taliban’s use of the platform, the company indicated its policies against violent organizations and hateful behavior, but did not respond to Reuters questions about its ranking. 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 crack down on free speech and human rights, especially those of women, and that the country will once again become a haven for global terrorism.
Taliban officials have said they want peaceful international relations and are committed to protecting Afghans.
The biggest social media companies have made some important decisions this year about how to deal with world leaders and ruling groups.
These include controversial blockades, such as that of former President Donald Trump for inciting violence during the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, and that of the Burmese army during the country’s coup.
Facebook, which has long been criticized for failing to combat hate speech in Myanmar, said the coup increased the risk of harm outside the internet and its history of human rights violations helped the ban on the army in power.
Companies, which have been criticized by global lawmakers and regulators for their immeasurable economic and political influence, often rely on state designations or official international recognition to determine who is allowed to use their sites.
It also helps determine who can be audited, have official state accounts, or receive special treatment for speech that breaks the rules, taking advantage of loopholes in new facts or facts of public interest.
However, the differences in the positions of technology companies suggest that the approach is not uniform.
Alphabet’s YouTube, which asked if it has a ban or restrictions against the Taliban, declined to comment, but said the video-sharing service relies on governments to define “foreign terrorist organizations “(FTO) and guide the site’s policy and rules against violent criminals. groups.
YouTube highlighted the State Department’s list of FTOs, which does not include the Taliban. The Americans classify the group as a “specially designated global terrorist,” which freezes the US assets of blacklisted people and prohibits Americans from working for them.
To complicate matters, while most countries show little sign of diplomatic recognition of the group, the Taliban’s position on the world stage could still change as they consolidate their control in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban is sort of an accepted player in international relations,” said Mohammed Sinan Siyech, a South Asia security researcher and a doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh, pointing to conversations that China and the United States United had with the group.
“If that recognition comes, for a business like Twitter or Facebook, it becomes difficult to make a subjective decision that this group is bad and they won’t accept it.”
Collaborated with Daphne Psaledakis, Washington; Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves