Facebook said it will keep its existing ban on content that promotes the Taliban in place after the Islamist militant group regained control of Afghanistan over the weekend.
Decisions about how to handle content supporting the Taliban diverge in the social media industry. YouTube is committing to a similar ban on Afghan Taliban accounts, but Twitter has not imposed an overarching ban amid the chaotic events.
Facebook said it will keep in place a ban on accounts that praise, support or represent the Taliban from its platforms based on its designation as a sanctioned terrorist organization under U.S. law.
“Facebook does not make decisions about the recognized government in any particular country but instead respects the authority of the international community in making these determinations. Regardless of who holds power, we will take the appropriate action against accounts and content that breaks our rules,” a Facebook company spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said Facebook has a "dedicated team of Afghanistan experts, who are native Dari and Pashto speakers and have knowledge of local context” tasked with identifying and alerting the platform of “emerging issues.”
Facebook’s ban applies across platforms the social media giant operates, including Instagram and WhatsApp. But WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption on messages makes that more challenging.
“As a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people's personal chats; however, if we become aware that a sanctioned individual or organization may have a presence on WhatsApp, we take action,” a spokesperson for WhatsApp told Vice.
The Taliban has reportedly used the Facebook-owned messaging platform to spread its message.
A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the company is also keeping a “longstanding approach” of banning content promoting the Afghan Taliban, based on its designation as a global terrorist entity by the U.S. Treasury Department.
“As such, if we find an account believed to be owned and operated by the Afghan Taliban, we terminate it. Further, our policies prohibit content that incites violence,” the YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.
Twitter is not imposing a broad ban on the content in the way YouTube and Facebook have stated, but a spokesperson said the platform will “continue to proactively enforce” its policies that ban glorification of violence.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
Twitter’s decision not to impose a ban is facing pushback from the GOP, given the widespread ire the company received from the party over the platform’s permanent ban on former President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE.
Rep. Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornDefense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan House committee votes to temporarily postpone Space Command relocation Democrats defeat GOP effort to declare 'lost confidence' in Biden after Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-Colo.) wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey accusing the platform of having “double standards and potential bias” in its speech standards.
Twitter’s spokesperson declined to comment at the time on Lamborn’s letter.
Popular video-sharing app TikTok appears to be taking action more in line with Facebook and YouTube. The company confirmed to CNBC that it has designated the Taliban as a terrorist organization and the platform will continue to remove content that praises, glorifies or provides support to them, but declined to share a statement with the outlet.
A spokesperson for TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Updated at 4:02 p.m.