New York, NY, August 19, 2021 … ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today called on Twitter, and other major social media platforms, to take immediate action to remove accounts affiliated with the Taliban given the organization’s long history of terrorist activity, violence and discrimination toward girls and women, assassinating journalists, and persecuting religious and ethnic minorities, in Afghanistan. The Taliban recently seized the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, and have gained control over the country.
“There’s no rational reason for the Taliban, a terror group hell-bent on imposing their punitive version of governance on the people of Afghanistan and all those who speak out against their brutality, to be allowed to be on Twitter in an attempt to sanitize their image,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “It’s incumbent upon Twitter and other major social media companies to not allow their platforms to be exploited by those who actively promote hate and engage in violence, violating the terms of service of these very products.”
“This is really not all that complicated. We do not need to revise your terms of service or community standards. Terror groups like the Taliban shouldn’t be on Twitter,” Greenblatt said. “It’s the same standard that we have demanded that the companies apply to leaders like Iran’s Khamenei or organizations like Hezbollah who promote hatred. These companies can choose who they promote and publish. The Taliban should not be on the list.”
The Taliban has a long and well-documented history of violently targeting and persecuting girls and women, activists and journalists, ethnic and religious minorities and others with whom they disagree. Over the last year, while negotiating with the U.S. and Western allies in Doha, the Taliban conducted targeted assassinations of activists and journalists, among other crimes.
For example, in July, after capturing Malistan district in Ghazni province, the Taliban tracked down all those who worked for the government and non-governmental organizations, killing 27 civilians and wounding 10 others.
Twitter’s own rules state, “You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people…. [Twitter] also prohibits the glorification of violence.” They go on to say that a user may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism.
The Taliban is very clever about how it circumvents terms of service on social media platforms in order to not be de-platformed. According to the Washington Post, “the messaging from Taliban supporters typically challenges the West’s dominant image of the group as intolerant, vicious and bent on revenge, while staying within the evolving boundaries of taste and content that tech companies use to police user behavior.”
“While the Taliban is technically not a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, their behavior is clearly that of a terrorist group,” said Greenblatt. “They should be treated as such, and not allowed to game the system.”
There is clear precedent for Twitter to take action. Services such as Facebook and YouTube have removed users in the past because, even if they have not explicitly violated their standards on the platform, they take into account their off-platform activities. For example, an individual like David Duke, a former KKK leader, has been banned for promoting activities off-platform that consistently violated their standards.
“The Taliban has its own media outlets. YouTube and Facebook already have pushed them off their platforms and we appreciate that leadership. Twitter should step up and do the same,” said Greenblatt.