The Taliban's following on Facebook has more than doubled as social media companies struggle to enforce bans

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The Taliban's following on Facebook has more than doubled as social media companies struggle to enforce bans
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has over 300,000 followers on Twitter as the terrorist-affiliated group seized control of Afghanistan. AP
  • As the Taliban turns to social media for governance, platforms are struggling to enforce bans.
  • Followers of the Taliban's official Facebook pages have more than doubled, NYT reported Wednesday.
  • Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has amassed over 300,000 followers on Twitter.
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Governments around the world are deciding whether or not to accept the Taliban as a legitimate government after the terrorist-affiliated group seized control of Afghanistan. Now, social media companies are racing to decide, too.

Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are enforcing varied bans against Taliban content on their platforms. But as the extremist group attempts to use social media as a means of governance - instead of glorifying violent content - the rules aren't clear as to who or what should be banned from the sites.

According to a New York Times report, the social media bans currently in place have not stopped the extremist group from growing their audience online. An analysis conducted by the Times found that over 100 new pro-Taliban accounts have popped up across Twitter and Facebook since August 9.

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Followers of the Taliban's official Facebook pages have grown by 120% to 49,000 users, and tens of thousands of users are viewing the group's YouTube videos, the Times reported on Wednesday. On Twitter, Taliban videos amassed half a million views in one day.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has over 300,000 followers on Twitter, his bio reading: "Member of Negotiations Team and Polit. Office Spokesman for International Media." Mujahid easily circumnavigated Facebook's ban of his WhatsApp account by connecting with journalists through the account of a fellow Taliban leader, the Times said.

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A Facebook spokesperson told Insider the company was "proactively" taking down content praising the Taliban, and that it had deployed a team of Afghanistan experts to monitor the situation.

Across platforms, Taliban-related users are avoiding posting content that explicitly breaks platform rules such as "the glorification of violence" and "hateful conduct" in order to avoid getting kicked off.

Ayman Aziz, a researcher who studies Afghanistan and Pakistan, told NYT that social media's current approach toward moderating the Taliban has allowed the group to grow a "new regime" online.

"The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving," a Twitter spokesperson told Insider. "We're also witnessing people in the country using Twitter to seek help and assistance. Twitter's top priority is keeping people safe, and we remain vigilant."

On Tuesday, a YouTube spokesperson told Insider that all accounts believed to be owned or operated by the Taliban would be terminated from the platform, and said this was a longstanding policy.

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"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," a Facebook spokesperson told Insider.

"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."

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