Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn taking steps to protect Afghan users from Taliban targeting

The Taliban seized control of the country as the U.S. was poised to complete its troop withdrawal

Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were working this week to secure the accounts of Afghans at risk of being targeted by the Taliban, which has taken over the country, according to reports. 

Facebook’s Head of Security Nathaniel Gleicher said Thursday the company had removed the ability to search the "friends" list for accounts in Afghanistan and created a one-click tool for citizens to lock down their accounts so "people who aren’t their friends can’t download or share their profile photo or see posts on their timeline."

He said the company has also created popup alerts for Afghans needing to protect their Instagram accounts. 

"Many of these were informed by feedback from activists, journalists and civil society groups," Gleicher said of the steps the company had taken. 


Gleicher added that the company had to be careful what it shared to avoid "tipping off bad actors." 

Twitter said the platform is rushing requests to remove archived tweets that could leave users vulnerable to the Taliban and would be able to temporarily suspend accounts for users concerned about content like followers and direct messages but unable to access their accounts, according to Reuters. 

Facebook and Instagram have also banned pro-Taliban content on their sites.

"The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under U.S. law and they are banned from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies," a Facebook spokesperson told FOX Business. "This means we remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them."  

Twitter has also faced backlash for allowing a Taliban spokesman with hundreds of thousands of followers to give updates on the platform. 

Zabihullah Mujahid’s account is not verified but has nearly 280,000 followers and is regularly cited by major news outlets. He recently tweeted an update on "military units" entering Kabul and wrote that their "advance is continuing normally." On Tuesday, he used Twitter to announce a press conference that afternoon, and Twitter also allowed him to post warnings and statements as Kabul fell to the radical group.

"The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving," a Twitter spokesperson told Fox News. "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.  We are taking steps to safeguard the voices of those on our service who represent protected groups including, humanitarian workers, journalists, news media organisations, human rights activists, and others.

"Our strong and dedicated teams are providing 24/7 global coverage to proactively enforce our rules at scale and swiftly actioning content that violates the Twitter Rules, specifically policies prohibiting glorification of violence, abusive behaviour, hateful conduct, wishes of harm, and gratuitous gore. We have prioritized labeling Tweets to provide context to people on the service who may be seeing examples of misleading or deceptive content that violates our synthetic and manipulated media policy. Our enforcement approach is agile and we will remain transparent about our work as it continues to evolve to address these increasingly complex issues."


Linkedin said it has hidden the connections of users in Afghanistan, according to Reuters

Fox Business' Audrey Conklin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.