Taliban leaders have made it clear they are in no mood for a lecture from the West on the issue of free speech.
Now that the Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan, questions have erupted over how much authority the notoriously totalitarian government will extend over its populace. Will women have rights or be subjugated like before? Will Christians have rights or be relegated to second-class status? Will this be a peaceful transition of power or one marked bloodshed? When asked if the newfound government will make room for free speech, a spokesman for the Taliban pointed out the hypocrisy of demanding free speech while American companies like Facebook (and Twitter) engage in censorship.
“This question should be asked to those people who are claiming to be promoters of freedom of speech, who do not allow publication of all information and news,” the spokesman said. “I can ask Facebook. This question should be asked to them.”
The Taliban spokesman got a question about freedom of speech and he said the question should be asked to US companies like Facebook who claim to promote it while still censoring pic.twitter.com/woXd5RRCWK
— Liam McCollum (@MLiamMcCollum) August 17, 2021
On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it will continue its ban on the Taliban’s promotion of content or messages on its platform, including Instagram and WhatsApp. “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under U.S. law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“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,” the spokesperson added.
Facebook has banned the Taliban for several years and has routinely moderated or removed accounts that are operated by Taliban leaders. Though the ban includes Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp, removing Taliban content on the platform has proven trickier due to encrypted communications.
“As a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats however, if we become aware that a sanctioned individual or organization may have a presence on WhatsApp we take action,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told Vice on Monday.
During the fall of Kabul over the weekend, criticism mounted on Twitter for its refusal to censor Taliban leaders while the company continues its ban against former President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, the company said it will continue allowing the Taliban to tweet freely on its platform so long as they do not become too violent.
“We will continue to proactively enforce our rules and review content that may violate Twitter rules, specifically policies against glorification of violence, platform manipulation and spam,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNBC.
“The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving,” the spokesperson added. “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.”
Follow Paul Bois on Twitter @Paulbois39.