Meta Platforms Inc. told Afghanistan International that the company has removed pages run by the Taliban-controlled media organisations on Facebook and Instagram because the group is sanctioned as a terrorist organisation under United States law.
The company said that it will continue to block all pages affiliated to the Taliban.
On Wednesday, July 20th, all the pages of Bakhtar News Agency and Afghan National Television, the two media organisations controlled by the Taliban, were removed from Facebook and Instagram, the two joint social media networks of Meta Platforms Inc.
In response to Afghanistan International's questions about the crackdown on the Taliban’s pages, Meta Platforms quoted the company's spokesperson as saying, “The Taliban is a sanctioned terrorist organisation based on the laws of the United States of America. This group has been banned from using Meta's services based on our policies on dangerous organizations.”
Meta's email to Afghanistan International also states that accounts created by or on behalf of the Taliban will be closed to prevent them from representing this group and praising and supporting them.
Encouraging violence and beheading opponents
Informed sources told Afghanistan International that one of the reasons behind the Meta move is the coverage of an extremist Afghan cleric who supports the group and has demanded the beheading of the opponents of the Taliban government.
Mullah Mujib-ul-Rahman Ansari, who participated from Herat in Taliban’s meeting of nationwide clerics in Kabul in late July 2022, said that the opponents of the Taliban government should be beheaded. The Taliban-controlled media Bakhtar News Agency and Radio Television Afghanistan – RTA broadcast his speech for the first time.
Since taking over Afghanistan in August 15, 2021, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on media and controls the sector’s operation inside Afghanistan.
While independent media and news agencies in Afghanistan are prohibited from free reporting, the Facebook pages of the media groups of the former government of Afghanistan, which are now under the control of the Taliban, acted as sources of propaganda for the Taliban.
These Taliban-controlled media groups appreciate and encourage violence, including the group’s suicide bombers and use of terrorism.
Despite Meta Platform’s latest crackdown on Taliban-affiliated media operations on Facebook and Instagram, the media, spokespersons, and supporters of the group are still widely active on Twitter and conduct wide range of information operations in support of the group.
A welcomed move
The Meta Platform Inc.’s act against the Taliban-controlled media presence on the company’s social media arms has been widely welcomed by Afghan social media users.
While the Taliban officials considered the move as a violation of freedom of speech, the Afghan social media users stress that the Taliban do not believe in the principle of democratic values, including freedom of press.
Elyas Nawandish, an Afghan journalist, said that the Taliban have been engaged in arrest and torture of local journalists and recently threatened a foreign journalist to apologize for critical reporting about the group. According to Nawandish, the Taliban has never been tolerant of critics but, "when their propaganda tool has been closed, they complain that Facebook has violated their freedom of expression”.
Amrullah Saleh, the former vice-president of Afghanistan, has welcomed the closure of the media pages of the Taliban. Saleh said that some of the pages run by the Taliban "spread discrimination”. He expressed hope that "the banning of oppressive Taliban terrorist group will continue in the virtual world”.
Demands from Twitter
A day after the Taliban media pages were blocked by Facebook, Afghan Twitter users also started a campaign asking Twitter Inc. to block accounts affiliated with the Taliban.
These users argue that the Taliban is "a terrorist group" and should not be allowed to use Twitter.
Habib Khan, an Afghan Twitter user and former Wall Street Journal reporter in Afghanistan wrote on his Twitter: "My name is Habib and I am from Afghanistan. I request Twitter to prevent the Taliban from using this network."
Many of these users have asked Twitter to block Taliban accounts by mentioning their names and countries.
This campaign has been welcomed by citizens of other countries too.