How Twitter, Facebook are handling the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on social media

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021
How Twitter, Facebook are handling pro-Taliban posts
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In the days since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, social media companies are trying to figure out how to navigate the situation.

In the days since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, social media companies are trying to figure out how to navigate the situation.

Social media is how many get their news, and different outlets been documenting the chaos happening in Afghanistan all week.

SJSU Journalism Lecturer and Department of Justice Studies Journalism Coordinator, Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, came to the United States from Kabul as a child and has been following along with friends there on social media.

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But when trying to refute some of the misinformation on Twitter from pro-Taliban groups, she was met with harsh criticism.

"It was just a flurry of responses from people name calling and saying 'I don't what's happening on the ground, who are your sources?'" Kazem-Stojanovic said. "Just bullying and attacking on social media and a lot of them I call Taliban Trolls."

Kazem-Stojanovic says she is concerned about the Taliban or their followers censoring information and painting the situation in a more sympathetic light.

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She thinks social media giants need to have a response.

"It's hard to figure out how to deal with this," Kazem-Stojanovic said. "These are accounts from abroad, different languages and how do you vet them? Definitely there needs to be some responsibility."

In a statement sent to ABC7, Facebook said:

"The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and they are banned from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies. This means we remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them. 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. Our teams are closely monitoring this situation as it evolves. Facebook does not make decisions about the recognized government in any particular country but instead respects the authority of the international community in making these determinations. Regardless of who holds power, we will take the appropriate action against accounts and content that breaks our rules."

Meanwhile, Twitter told us in a statement of their own:

"The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving, and we're witnessing people in the country using Twitter to seek help and assistance. Twitter's top priority is keeping people safe, and we remain vigilant. We will continue to proactively enforce our rules and review content that may violate Twitter Rules, specifically policies against glorification of violence and platform manipulation and spam."

Experts say it will be no easy task for these social media giants to figure out how to handle the situation.

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"The companies have a legal right to curate their sites, but we urge that when they make those decisions, they do so within the human rights framing that is respectful for the for the broader free speech principles that are at play," Electronic Frontier Foundation Civil Liberties Director David Greene said.

"Here is something where the government could help out an awful lot by simply having a consistent designation for organizations like the Taliban that these groups can point to so that they aren't crucified after the fact for trying to make their own determinations," Enderle Group Principal Analyst Rob Enderle said.