The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban poses multiple challenges for tech companies in censoring their platform, reported Reuters on Tuesday.
On Monday, August 16, Facebook confirmed that the social media giant considered the Taliban to be a terrorist organization, banning them and any supporting content from Facebook's platforms. However, reports state that the Taliban uses WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, to communicate with Afghans even though the social media platform's rules prohibit it.
The company is reportedly monitoring the situation closet and has said that WhatsApp will take action, such as removing the account, against any account linked with the terrorist organization.
The social media platform Twitter is another outlet of concern. Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, constantly takes to Twitter to provide 'live updates' to his 295,000 followers. Twitter has rules in place that restricts persons or groups that incite and promote terror from using the platform. However, Reuters reported that the company failed to answer how it makes the distinction to restrict violent organizations and hateful content.
The Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan raises major concerns, such as restriction of freedom of speech, human rights, women's rights and more among Afghans. While Taliban officials have stated that they will protect Afghans and want to build peaceful international relations, the government during the organization's past run with power did the opposite.
Earlier this year, former US President Donald Trump was blocked by social media platforms for inciting the Capitol riot on January 6. Similarly, Myanmar's military also faces bans after a coup took place in the country.
Facebook was also heavily criticised for failing to censor hate speech on its platform which is said to have majorly contributed to Myanmar's coup. Facebook has since reportedly banned the ruling military on its platform. However, Taliban does not have a history of spreading hate messages or propaganda, and it is the military actions, including suicide attacks, sniper fire blitz, and bombings against the US and Nato alliance and civil targets that got it termed terrorist outfit.
Tech companies also face major criticism from lawmakers as well as citizens for failing to restrict hate speech or content that incites violence. Most social media platforms rely on state designations to recognize accounts that pose a threat in this regard, but the regulation is not uniform.
YouTube did not comment when asked if it intends to restrict the Taliban on its platform. However, it said that it will enforce the necessary action against criminal groups depending on how governments define Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Currently, the US State Department's FTO list does not include the Taliban. The organization is classified as a 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist' by the US.
Additionally, the decision of tech companies to restrict the Taliban on their platforms will depend on whether the group will be recognized by other countries diplomatically, which further complicates matters.
Mohammed Sinan Siyech, a researcher on security in South Asia and doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, addressed the issue by saying: "The Taliban is somewhat an accepted player at an international relations level. If that recognition comes in, then for a company like Twitter or Facebook to make a subjective decision that this group is bad and we will not host them poses complications."