Facebook may not lift Taliban ban after Afghan takeover, even if the US softens its views

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Facebook could not lift its ban on the Taliban even if the United States stops imposing sanctions on the group that has quickly taken control of Afghanistan, the social media company’s chief politician said on Wednesday.

The US State Department does not list the Afghan Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization like the Pakistani Taliban. But Washington sanctions the group as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” freezing the US assets of blacklisted people and barring Americans from working with them.

“They will not be approved as long as they are required by US law and even if they were not required by US law, we would have to conduct a policy analysis to see whether they still violate our guidelines for dangerous organizations,” Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert said when he called reporters about the company’s latest report on enforcement of community standards.

Facebook describes the Taliban as a terrorist group and bans them from its platforms. Bickert said the ban went into effect even before she joined the company in 2012.

Big tech companies have been scrutinizing how they’re going to deal with the group that took control of Afghanistan after the US troops withdrew. Alphabet’s YouTube said the group is banning it due to US sanctions, but Twitter has allowed the group to have a presence.

“When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, these companies didn’t exist,” said Rose Jackson, director of the Democracy & Tech Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and they are now faced with consequences similar to government decisions.

The Taliban are digitally savvy and now use a wide range of social media platforms and messaging services such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Telegram to communicate with Afghan citizens and the international community.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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