What does the fall of Kabul mean for social media platforms?

Kabul Social Media

Ranging from strengthening policies to taking a wait-and-watch approach, social media platforms are tackling the situation in Kabul the best they know. Here’s all you need to know…

Kabul’s fall has been a tragically fear-inducing moment in the history of the world. People, especially women and children, are scared of what life would be like under the Taliban regime. Footages emerging from Afghanistan are adding fuel to this feeling of despair. The situation in Kabul is also leading social media platforms to announce and clarify their stand on how things would change for them and their users in the days and weeks to come.

On one hand, people are banding together to help each other get access to resources and to share sorrows, and show solidarity. On the other, there is a high risk of hate speech going around with much more ease and force. Language too is a key issue for social media platforms for it might be tough for them to identify local dialects and contexts in their attempt to tackle objectionable content — with speed and at scale.

Under the United States Law, the Taliban is identified as a terrorist organisation and is thus banned from Facebook. Since the fall of Kabul, the social media giant has initiated action against posts that support or praise the situation in Afghanistan and the accounts that are affiliated with the group.

In a statement to ANI, Facebook said, “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Oragnization policies.” In effect, Facebook is removing accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban.

Facebook is also working with a team of people who understand the languages spoken and written in Afghanistan to identify and tackle the impact of content that can incite violence in the region. “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.

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Twitter is another platform that needs to up its game rather quickly. Globally, it is gaining ire for letting Taliban spokespersons stay on the platform and garner audiences — especially with a history of banning politicians, including Donald Trump, on the platform from time to time.

In a statement about the situation, a Twitter spokesperson said, “The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving. 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. We will continue to proactively enforce our rules and review content that may violate Twitter Rules, specifically policies against the glorification of violence and platform manipulation and spam.”

In a statement to Reuters, YouTube has said that “it has a long-held policy of not allowing accounts believed to be operated by the Taliban on its site.”

Reportedly, WhatsApp has shut down a hotline that was set up by the Taliban, seeking people to report cases of violence and looting.

Given the importance of social media platforms in disseminating information and unfolding freedom of speech, the situation in Afghanistan is a tricky one. They can neither block out all content for it may take away a tool from someone in need nor can they sit on a volcano of hateful content.

In some ways, this makes today’s situation a lot more different from 20 years ago when the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan. While social media can work as a means to ensure information can flow in and out of the troubled country, it can also be used for propaganda to prove all is well there. Clearly, social media platforms have a lot on their plate.