An armed Taliban fighter walks along a barbed wire fence inside the no-mans-land between the Pakistani and the Afghan borders. File picture: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder
An armed Taliban fighter walks along a barbed wire fence inside the no-mans-land between the Pakistani and the Afghan borders. File picture: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

Taliban headache for Facebook and US Tech

By Fast Company Contributor Time of article published Aug 17, 2021

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The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan poses a new challenge for big US tech companies on handling content created by a group considered “terrorists” by some world governments. Less than 48 hours after the Taliban gained control of Kabul, and with it, control over most of Afghanistan, Facebook has announced that it will ban—to the extent that it can—content related to the Taliban on all its platforms. The social media giant confirmed that both the Taliban group itself and user-posted Taliban content will not be allowed on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp.

“The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under U.S. law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies,” a company spokesperson told one media entity. “We also have a dedicated team of Afghanistan experts, who are native Dari and Pashto speakers and have knowledge of local context, helping to identify and alert us to emerging issues on the platform.”

Yet banning Taliban-related content is much easier for the company to do on its Facebook and Instagram platforms since Facebook can monitor all content posted there. WhatsApp is different since the app and any messages sent are end-to-end encrypted, which means Facebook can’t see the content being shared. However, a WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed to a number of media entities that if the company becomes aware the Taliban are using certain WhatsApp channels, the company will “take action” against them.

Taliban members however have reportedly continued to use Facebook’s end-to-end encrypted messaging service WhatsApp to communicate directly with Afghans despite the company prohibiting it under rules against dangerous organisations.

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