US media companies give birth to Taliban soft power

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The embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan has reminded the United States that the threat of a second September 11th is right. Over the past 20 years, US forces have engaged terrorist organizations within the Middle East to prevent them from organizing and preparing for attacks on the mainland of the United States.

However, the Taliban are stronger than ever and now has the autonomy to plan and channel resources against the West. It is crucial that the United States integrates the lessons learned during the rise of ISIS with the rise of the currently emboldened Taliban.

During the growth of ISIS, the United States has learned to always prepare for attacks from radical aliens and virtual operations on American media platforms.

In spring 2015, ISIS spear one of the most successful radical Islamic media campaigns the West has ever seen. His media operations were so successful that he did not need to send guerrillas to the United States because he could spawn local terrorists via virtual platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

Islamic State’s Radical Islamic Information Campaign radicalized 71 Americans to participate in IS-inspired activities. Of those 71 local recruits, 27% planned to launch attacks on American soil. ISIS successfully recruited 250 Americans in the fall of 2015 to travel to Syria.

Due to the Biden administration’s failure to control the Taliban, the United States must prepare to counter the impending Taliban media campaign. It is not known whether the Taliban will attempt to expose the same weakness as IS, but the United States should remain diligent in combating local terrorism.

The Taliban have used Facebook and other social media to target people for “revenge killings”. Afghan citizens and Christians quickly clean up their social media accounts and to throw their phones so as not to provoke retaliation from the Taliban.

Facebook published a new feature that allows users to lock their account, making their account private to any non-friends. The feature was implemented because Afghan Facebook users were unable to censor their accounts quickly enough to avoid being punished by the Taliban.

The Taliban are widely expanding their media messages to recruit new members and recreate the Taliban narrative.

For context, in 1996 the Taliban began delete and forbid media technology within Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership originally viewed the media as a threat to their regime. The Taliban have started building four multimedia studios, a radical change in behavior from the ban on communications technology.

From 2001 to 2021, social media became the most effective way for the Taliban to strategically communicate their story. When the Taliban before ruled, about 0.01% of the population had access to social media. Currently, there are around 4.4 million social media users in Afghanistan.

As the Taliban celebrated the withdrawal of the US military, they asked Facebook and Twitter to continue their operations online. Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, claims platforms that promote freedom of expression like Facebook should not ban their content.

As of August 21, several representatives of the Taliban, including mujahedin, held more than 300,000 followers each on Twitter alone. These representatives of the Taliban, designated terrorists by the United Nations, are gaining weight on Twitter, but former President Donald Trump remains banned.

The pro-Taliban media are responsible for donations and new recruits from Pakistan. The Taliban shared videos of their operatives capturing bays of American vehicles and looting American equipment. Five separate videos of Taliban leaders celebrate their victory with their soldiers originated on YouTube and spread across multiple social media platforms. In less than 24 hours, they had reached half a million views.

The Taliban want to be seen as reasonable and open to discussion. Suhail Shaheen, representative of the Taliban to the UN, tweeted October 7 that the Taliban wish to discuss, understand and have positive interactions with the international community. Shaheen currently has over 531,000 followers on Twitter.

The media is essential to recreating her narrative, and U.S. tech companies should actively deny the Taliban’s use of soft power to push their own story.

Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram will continue to remove content related to the Taliban as long as the international community considers the Taliban to be a terrorist organization. However, given the lack of U.S. intelligence on the ground and the Taliban’s new pool of resources, it will have the ability to adapt to new U.S. social media algorithms.

Moderation of content can be extremely dangerous and to menace the right to freedom of expression, a fundamental democratic value. However, given the extremist, violent and primitive actions of the Taliban, they lost their ability to participate in US media platforms.

The Taliban are clearly breaking many of Twitter’s own rules. Twitter published the rules include topics such as violence, terrorism / violent extremism, child exploitation and hateful behavior.

Why does Twitter allow people who represent a terrorist organization infamous for its violence, abuse of women, targeting minorities, and use of child soldiers publish on its platform? It is shameful and hypocritical.

By not banning the Taliban from its platform, Twitter chooses to directly contribute to the rise of the Taliban.

Clearly, the withdrawal from Afghanistan left Americans vulnerable to Taliban retaliation. The Taliban rely on American businesses to communicate strategically with the world. Its dependence on the American media is an opportunity. The United States should disrupt the Taliban’s soft power operations by isolating the Taliban from social media and other means of communicating with the world.

This piece originally appeared in The daily signal



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