Facebook Bans The Taliban As Social Media Platforms Grapple With Afghanistan Takeover

APRIL 8, 2018: Phone sitting on laptop with Facebook desktop site reflecting on screen. The social media giant's stock has dipped sharply since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

While Facebook has banned the Taliban from its platform, other social media platforms including Twitter and WhatsApp are struggling.

The Taliban has seized control of Afghanistan this week, after the US removed its military presence from the region.

This takeover has been met with widespread fear from Afghanis. Imagery of thousands of people trying to escape the country have spread rapidly online.

With the organisation officially taking over the country’s government, social media organisations have been left with questions about how to navigate the situation.

For example, a Taliban spokesperson used Twitter to say that the group had taken control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. A number of Taliban officials have unverified accounts on the platform.

In contrast, Facebook was quick to maintain its ban on the group.

A spokesperson for the platform told Metro that the Taliban is “sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies.”

This means it will remove accounts being run for or by the Taliban, as well as using a team of Dari and Pashto speakers to monitor the platform and alert them to any problems.

However, banning on the group on WhatsApp – also owned by Facebook – has proved more difficult.

As initially reported by VICE, while it can ban any person or organisations sanctioned under U.S law, messages on the app are sent though end-to-end encryption. This means the platform can’t view messages sent on it, making it more difficult to identify potential Taliban users.

A company spokesperson told the publication that “as a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats; however, if we become aware that a sanctioned individual or organization may have a presence on WhatsApp, we take action.”

There are reports that the group has been using WhatsApp to contact citizens.

As the crisis in Afghanistan escalates, whether the social media giants are able to control the situation on their platforms remains in question.

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