Twitter Hosts Taliban, Other Sites Closed
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – While it has banned former U.S. President Donald J. Trump from its service, the social networking site Twitter continues to host accounts of high-profile officials linked to the Islamist Taliban group.
Twitter says the spokesman and others linked to Afghanistan’s new rulers can send “tweets” as long as they don’t violate the platform’s terms of service, including inciting violence.
However, the Taliban, which, unlike Trump, was declared “a terrorist” organization by the United States, saw other sites disappear.
Five Taliban-linked websites in five languages that the terrorist group used to spread official messages suddenly went offline Friday, according to sources familiar with the case.
It wasn’t clear why the websites went down, just days after the Taliban took control over the country.
The Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, English, and Dari sites were previously protected by San Francisco-based Cloudflare, which shields the site host from being revealed to the public. Cloudflare has not commented on the reports.
The downed sites may be due to an effort to limit the group’s internet reach, The Washington Post newspaper reported. Commentators also say it could be temporary as the group secures new online hosting arrangements.
Encrypted message service WhatsApp – owned by social media giant Facebook — reportedly removed several Taliban-linked accounts on Friday. Facebook says it has banned pro-Taliban content on its sites.
Amid the Taliban’s online challenges, several allies of the United States are reportedly scrambling in droves to delete their social media profiles.
They are concerned they could be tracked down by Taliban fighters who have reportedly been searching for allies of the U.S.-led coalition.
The New York-based group Human Rights First confirmed that Taliban fighters captured U.S. surveillance tools. Those devices, known as Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE), were used by soldiers to scan the biometrics of Afghans. That technology could match fingerprints on improvised explosive devices and be used for other such forensic investigations.
“We understand that the Taliban is now likely to have access to various biometric databases and equipment in Afghanistan, including some left behind by coalition military forces,” the human rights group said in a statement. “This technology is likely to include access to a database with fingerprints and iris scans, and include facial recognition technology.”
The Human Rights First advisory included multilingual guides for Afghan allies on protecting their digital identities.
Its warning corresponds with numerous reports of Afghans deleting their social media profiles.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reportedly circulated emails to its partners in Afghanistan advising them to “remove photos and information that could make individuals or groups vulnerable.”
However, some experts say it may not be easy for the Taliban to use sophisticated equipment. Former U.S. Army prosecutor John Maher told The Epoch Times paper that this specific warning about the Taliban taking HIIDE equipment is probably overblown.
“Even if [Taliban] can get into that device, they’ll get an unclassified list of their people,” said Maher. He used Afghan biometric evidence in the successful campaign to have President Trump pardon a soldier convicted of killing civilians.
Maher said he thinks the Taliban would have to be aided by more sophisticated governments such as China or Iran to surveillance their enemies. However, both nations already have a footprint in Afghanistan and seem ready to cooperate, experts say.
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