Alphabet’s YouTube said Tuesday it had a long-standing policy not to allow accounts believed to be run by the Taliban on its website as social media companies faced questions about how to deal with the group that quickly took control of Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s return to power for the first time in 20 years has sparked fears over crackdowns on freedom of expression and human rights, especially women’s rights, and concerns that the country could once again become a hotbed of global terrorism.
Separately, the Financial Times reported that Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service shut down a complaint hotline for Afghans to contact the Taliban, which was set up by the group after it took control of Kabul on Sunday.
A WhatsApp spokesman declined to comment on the action, but said the service was required under U.S. sanctions laws to freeze accounts that appear to be official Taliban accounts.
The complaint number, which was an emergency number for civilians to use to report violence, looting or other issues, was blocked on Tuesday by Facebook along with other official Taliban channels, the report said.
Facebook said on Monday that it called the Taliban a terrorist group and banned it and content that it supports from its platforms.
A Taliban spokesman accused Facebook of censorship at a press conference on Tuesday, according to a translation of his statements in a video clip.
When asked whether YouTube banned the Taliban on Monday, YouTube declined to comment. However, on Tuesday it was said that the group’s ban was a long-standing approach.
The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban poses challenges for several major social media and messaging platforms as to what and who should be allowed on their platforms.
When asked whether it would allow the Taliban to run official Afghan government Facebook pages or accounts, Facebook referred to a statement saying it respects the authority of the international community to make decisions about recognized governments .
Twitter, which is reviewing its rules for world leaders on the platform, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the same question.
Taliban spokesmen with hundreds of thousands of supporters tweeted updates during the country’s takeover. A Twitter spokesman said in a statement that the network would be reviewing content that might violate its rules, particularly those glorifying violence or platform manipulation, but did not answer questions about whether there are particular restrictions on the Taliban as a group or how it is classified violent organizations.
© Thomson Reuters 2021