The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has led to a debate as to how tech platforms should manage online Taliban content and communications. Tech Against Terrorism recommends that tech companies remove or restrict access to content produced by the Taliban on the basis that it is an organisation that is designated by a number of governments and inter-governmental bodies and that engages in indiscriminate violence against civilians.
Platforms should consult designation lists of democratic states when implementing content moderation decisions. Platforms should also where possible assess groups, actors and the content they produce against based on their own rules on terrorism, violent extremism, and incitement to and/or glorification of violence.
The Taliban is designated as a terrorist organisation by the EU and Canada and included in the US Treasury’s sanction list. The fact that the Taliban now effectively constitutes the Afghan government should not prevent platforms from implementing their rules in this area and from removing material produced by a designated terrorist organisation. In fact, such a status could warrant further action. Here international human rights law and specifically the Rabat Plan of Action can help provide a decision-making framework for companies. Whilst very different use cases, there is precedent of tech platforms removing state actors. This includes Instagram banning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Facebook banning the Myanmar military, and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others disabling former US President Donald Trump’s accounts.
Nevertheless, this is a challenging content moderation issue, and especially for smaller platforms who might not have the capacity to identify and assess potential Taliban material. It is further complicated by the fact that there is not international consensus on the Taliban’s status. In our experience, consensus around designation significantly facilitates content removal or online terrorist content in a manner that is based on the rule of law. We therefore encourage governments to improve designation mechanisms whilst respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
At Tech Against Terrorism, we will continue to support platforms in how to respond to Taliban use of their services, including via bespoke consultation and via the Knowledge Sharing Platform, which contains a repository of symbols and terminology associated with the Taliban and other terrorist groups designated by democratic nation states. We have also accelerated inclusion of Taliban content on the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform.