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Should big tech be giving a social media megaphone to the Taliban?



Facebook, Twitter and Google have come under fire yet again as they must choose whether to censor the Taliban as it retakes Afghanistan

In the debate on censorship and civic duty, big tech is encountering a high-stakes question: whether it should censor the Taliban.

Facebook, Twitter and Google currently have bans in place to prevent the Taliban from creating accounts on their platforms.

But as the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, big tech must choose whether to block the country’s official state social media channels.

Facebook says that it’s likely to take cues from the US government and other global leaders

It still remains unclear whether the US will recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government.

US President Biden is unlikely to take this route unless the Taliban publicly severs ties from terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.

The Taliban has already promised to protect the rights of minorities and women, but this remains to be seen.

How are Facebook, Google and Twitter handling the situation?

Facebook has said that it will continue to ban content from the Taliban so far as the US continues to classify the group as a dangerous terror organisation. The platform also removes any posts which explicitly praise the group.

Google, which owns Youtube, has banned the Taliban from operating accounts. User content which promotes the Taliban can be flagged for inciting violence or spreading hate speech.

Meanwhile, Twitter doesn’t yet have a specific policy to outline how it will respond to the Taliban other than those generally prohibiting posts that glorify violence.

Was leaving Afghanistan a good decision?

A new Taliban, or just propaganda?

If big tech gives the Taliban the green pass, concerns are that the group will use the platforms to spread propaganda.

The Taliban has already started trying to effectively re-brand itself, pledging to build an ‘inclusive government’ earlier this week.

It said this new government would protect the rights of women and minorities “within the bounds of sharia law”.

During the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, its interpretation of Sharia laws included stoning or executing women who refused to comply with the regime.

Would banning the Taliban from social media lead to more harm?

Another major concern is that more aggressive censorship against the Taliban could limit global discourse about affairs in Afghanistan.

Faiza Patel from the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security program raised concerns about entirely censoring the group.

“How does that constrain political discourse on Facebook if you literally cannot talk about the Taliban except to criticise them?”

“I know most of us are probably going to be criticizing the Taliban, but there are obvious objective conversations that you can have about what it means” for Afghanistan.

It remains yet to be seen whether the group will honour its promise of protecting the rights of all Afghans, and what role big tech will have to play moving forward.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

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