Social Media giant Twitter is engaging in more censorship of a former U.S. President than a radical Islamic terrorist group.
Twitter repeatedly dodged the question of whether the Taliban were a terrorist organization and subject to disciplinary action, a contentious issue in light of the Big Tech platform’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump.
When asked for clarification on the Taliban’s violations of the company’s rules, Twitter declined to comment, pledging the company would “circle back should that change.”
Further pressed on whether the social media giant “has no comment on the Taliban’s status as a violent organization per the site rules,” the Twitter spokesperson responded later that day, “We’ve no comment beyond shared statement at this time.”
All martyr seekers alive & engaging enemy, tens of gunmen incl. police chief killed, police & COP buildings littered with enemy corpses pic.twitter.com/H9qgvkQPBX
— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) October 17, 2017
Users “may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism,” according to the “Violent organizations policy” section of the Twitter Rules page.
Twitter provides a list of criteria for an organization to be considered violent or engaged in terrorism. The three criteria state a group must “identify through their stated purpose, publications, or actions as an extremist group; have engaged in, or currently engage in, violence and/or the promotion of violence as a means to further their cause; and target civilians in their acts and/or promotion of violence.”
د بلخ ولایت دهدادي ولسوالۍ او مرکز مزار ښاره په څنډو کې د کود برق چوک په ګډون ۱۹ قرارګاوې، پوستې او پراخې سیمې له مزدور دښمن څخه تصفیه شوې.
په عملیاتو کې د دښمن ۳۰ تنه عسکر قتل او ژوبل شول او ۹ ټانګونه یې له منځه لاړل.
مجاهدینو ته زیان نه دی رسیدلی. pic.twitter.com/Ce8hyvn84D
— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) August 10, 2021
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence describes the Taliban as “a Sunni Islamist nationalist and pro-Pashtun movement founded in the early 1990s that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until October 2001.”
Approximately 2,448 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed in Afghanistan through April 2021, and a staggering 66,000 members of Afghan national military and police lost their lives during that time frame. The Taliban and other opposition groups have seen a total of 51,191 casualties.
Twitter currently hosts multiple accounts owned and operated by Taliban spokespeople, including profiles operated by Zabihullah Mujahid and Suhail Shaheen .
Mujahid, who describes himself as a spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, has approximately 330,000 followers and has been on the site since 2017.
In recent weeks, Mujahid has begun posting video updates capturing the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan. As in the past, the Taliban spokesperson frequently reports Taliban casualties and numbers of combatant forces killed, often using vague terms such as “enemies” or “gunmen” to refer to a multitude of opposition forces.
Shaheen has been on the platform since 2019 and has approximately 370,000 followers. He lists his position as a “member of the Negotiations Team and [Political] Office Spokesman for International Media.” Shaheen refrains from commenting directly on Taliban-sanctioned killings.
Taliban control of the country has prompted concern from world leaders due to the group’s decadeslong history of social oppression and violent, theocratic rule of Afghanistan — especially as Taliban officials have advocated for a nation founded and governed by the principles of Sharia Law, including the subjugation of women, violent punishments for offenses, and execution of dissidents.
Afghan citizens attempting to flee Taliban rule have evacuated via the Kabul airport with assistance from the United States and other allies. Evacuees have been desperate to escape the Taliban despite limited resources, with some clinging to the exterior of aircraft before falling to their deaths . In one instance, a stowaway was crushed to death after attempting to ride in the wheel well of a plane.
.@SECDEF says they also have reports of people "being turned away at checkpoints" who are trying to get to Kabul airport and they are pressing Taliban to do better citing "unfortunate incidents."
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) August 18, 2021
After citizens attempted to protest the group’s occupation Wednesday, Taliban forces opened fire on the crowd , wounding dozens and killing at least three people.
Images have surfaced of the Taliban parading captives through the streets with nooses around their necks and their skin blackened.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who acknowledged at his first press conference after the fall of Kabul the U.S. lacked the troops to assure safe passage to the airport for U.S. citizens attempting to flee Afghanistan, insisted a current agreement with the Taliban would allow for credentialed travelers to proceed to the airport.
*GRAPHIC WARNING* Taliban fighters use gunfire, whips, sticks and sharp objects to maintain crowd control over thousands of Afghans who continue to wait for a way out, on airport road. At least half dozen were wounded while I was there, including a woman and her child. #Kabul pic.twitter.com/a2KzNPx07R
— Marcus Yam 文火 (@yamphoto) August 17, 2021
Twitter’s decision not to censor the Taliban comes as other Big Tech giants, including Facebook and TikTok, have maintained firm bans on the glorification of the Taliban on their platforms.
Trump remains permanently banned from Twitter after the company’s lengthy deliberation on the issue following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Author: Elizabeth Tierney