Twitter Automatically Recommends Users Follow Taliban Accounts

Taliban leaders use social media to help take control of Kabul

Suhail Shaheen (R) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
August 19, 2021

Twitter’s "auto-recommendation" tool is pushing users to follow Taliban accounts.

Taliban spokesmen and leaders have large followings on the social media platform, which has not banned members of the jihadist group. Twitter users who follow Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen are prompted to follow "a set of accounts that work well" with Shaheen’s, including those of other Taliban members.

The Taliban used Twitter to spread propaganda and establish control over Kabul as the United States withdrew from the Afghan capital. Twitter’s rules ban "hateful conduct" and "threatening or promoting terrorism," but the company has not announced whether it considers the Taliban a terrorist organization. Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

Twitter has said it is "actively enforcing its policies" but did not tell the Washington Free Beacon whether it planned to turn off auto-recommendation for known Taliban accounts. Multiple experts believe the Taliban carefully uses social media to avoid explicitly advocating violence, allowing it to remain on major platforms.

The Taliban is also active on the Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp. The group used WhatsApp to inform Kabul residents that it had taken control of the city.