Twitter is under fire for allowing members of the Taliban to use its platform and spread their message while it continues the ban placed on former U.S. President Donald Trump. The company had suspended Trump’s account following the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.
“We have permanently suspended the account [of Trump] due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter had said in a post on Jan. 8.
While Trump decried alleged election fraud in the 2020 presidential race at the Jan. 6 rally and told supporters to “fight like hell,” he did not order the half-million protesters present in Washington, D.C. that day to assault the American legislature. Yet the Taliban, an insurgent terrorist group well known for its brutal violence and suppression, remains free to use Twitter.
Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, has more than 316,000 followers on Twitter and provides regular updates on the group’s activities in the country. Another spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, has over 64,000 followers and has been consistently posting on the platform about the group’s takeover of cities and provinces.
Twitter’s decision to allow the Taliban to spread its messages (and rhetoric) on the network has inevitably attracted intense criticism.
“Why on God’s green Earth does the Taliban spokesman have an active Twitter account but not the former President of the United States? Who’s side is the AMERICA BASED Big-Tech companies on?” Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn said in a tweet.
“Freedom and democracy are not doing well when #Twitter continues to ban #Trump’s account but relays the #Taliban spokesperson’s without any second thoughts,” French politician Jerome Riviere tweeted.
Twitter allowing Taliban activities is in stark contrast to the actions taken by other social media networks like Facebook and YouTube. Facebook placed a ban on Taliban and stated that it will continue following the policy. The company has a dedicated team of Afghan experts who monitor and remove content linked to the group.
“The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organisation 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 BBC.
Facebook said that the ban on Taliban is applicable across its other platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram. There have been reports that Taliban is using WhatsApp for communication. Facebook stated that it would look into the matter and take action on such accounts. However, a WhatsApp spokesperson told Vice that since they are a private messaging service, they do not have access to the content of users’ chats. But if a sanctioned individual or organization makes a presence on the platform, WhatsApp might take action.
Youtube said that it will terminate accounts with ties to the Afghan Taliban. The company said to CNN that since the Taliban is listed in the Treasury Department’s sanctions list, they will not allow any accounts that are managed by the group.
TikTok said to CNBC that it sees the Taliban as a terrorist organization and will therefore remove all content that glorifies, praises, or supports the activities of the group.
When The Washington Examiner contacted Twitter to enquire about its policies regarding Taliban, the social network said that they are “proactively removing content that violates our policies.” However, the company did not specifically address the Taliban issue or its ban on Trump.
Twitter recently suspended the account of Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for apparently violating the platform’s policies on COVID-19 vaccines. Greene had tweeted that vaccines are failing and criticized the use of vaccine mandates and passports as it violated individual freedoms.
Meanwhile, Trump has filed a lawsuit against tech companies Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Pam Bondi, a former attorney general of Florida, believes that the lawsuit will likely go “all the way” to the Supreme Court.
“These platforms have their billions (of followers) worldwide, and they are controlling the 21st-century town hall. They’re controlling basically all of the information that comes out from all Americans throughout not only the states but the country,” Bondi said in an interview with Newsmax.
The former attorney general warned that if platforms can censor former president Trump, “they can censor anything.” She feels that tech companies have developed a mindset that they have the immunity to violate the First Amendment.
Trump’s lawsuit contains around 65,000 stories of censorship submitted by U.S. citizens. Liz Harrington, Trumps’ spokesperson, said that the former president is confident of winning the lawsuit in court.
“Big Tech gives a platform to America’s enemies and all who hate our freedoms, yet banned the highest vote-getting incumbent president in history, President Trump, and deplatforms, censors, and shadow-bans his tens of millions of supporters,” Harrington said.