Is Donald Trump worse than Taliban? Twitter won't boot militant group but ex-prez still banned

Twitter confirms Taliban will be allowed on platform if they don't glorify violence, sparking fury from GOP


                            Is Donald Trump worse than Taliban? Twitter won't boot militant group but ex-prez still banned
A screenshot of Donald Trump's banned Twitter account (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) and Taliban in Kabul (Zabihullah Mujahid/Twitter)

Social media networks have had a lot to grapple with over the past year. From election misinformation to anti-vaxxer propaganda, networks like Facebook and Twitter have been at constant loggerheads with the Republican Party. Now, a new issue has arisen from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Does social media legitimize their government? Twitter has confirmed it will, while Donald Trump still remains banned from the platform.

The furious debate around social media reached a high point in January after Trump was booted off almost all mainstream platforms for inciting the January 6 insurrection. In July, he announced a class action lawsuit against Twitter and Facebook, and accused the CEOs of "destroying our country". He's also attempted experimenting with alternatives. In late June, he's streamed a rally in Ohio on Rumble and even briefly ran a Twitter-like blog on his website.  

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However, the former President hasn't hidden his desire to return to mainstream social media, which enabled him to win the 2016 Presidential elections. While Facebook has announced he will be allowed to return after two years, Twitter's ban is permanent. That has often infuriated the GOP, who have now taken offense that the site will let the Taliban stay, as long as they don't "incite violence". 

In this photo illustration, a notification from Twitter appears on a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump on May 29, 2020, in San Anselmo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Taliban's social media woes

Keeping terrorist groups off social media seems like a no-brainer. All over the world, groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas and Al Shabaab have all been locked out of mainstream platforms, including Twitter. The Taliban too faced social media bans with platforms frequently taking down any accounts that spread pro-terror information or praise them. However, things are very different now. The Taliban is no longer just another rogue terror organization, after the fall of Kabul they are now the defacto Afghan government. That raises the stakes considerably. 

The takeover leaves official social media accounts of the Afghanistan government in a bit of a pickle. Like with all other nations, official government accounts are handed over from one government to the next if there is a change in leadership. Joe Biden took over the @POTUS Twitter account after he was sworn in, and Kamala Harris got control of the @VP account. So what about those that belong to the Afghan government? There are two diverging tactics at play here.

Facebook has announced it will continue to ban any pro-Taliban accounts and groups, including on WhatsApp which the Taliban have reportedly been using to great effect. The company hasn't yet addressed the issue of Afghan government pages, but it is likely they will remain out of Taliban hands for the time being. Twitter on the other hand has chosen to court controversy. In a brief statement, the company said it would outlaw the "glorification of violence, platform manipulation, and spam." It may not have directly addressed the Taliban issue, but the company didn't need to.

Two Taliban spokesmen, Suhail Shaehee and Zabihullah Mujahid have more than 351,000 and 310,000 Twitter followers respectively. While their accounts haven't received the blue verified tick yet, they have been allowed on the platform for years. In fact, Mujahid's account is described as "Official Twitter Account of the Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." A quick scan also shows that none of his tweets appear to have any labels or warnings, a common site for US politicians.

The Twitter account of Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid. (Twitter)

Republicans enraged, ask who's side big tech is on

Twitter's statement was met with massive backlash by the GOP, who made their displeasure apparent. Rep. Doug Lamborn sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on August 17. In the letter, Lamborn wrote, "It is impossible to see how the accounts of Zabihullah Mujahid and Yousef Ahmandi do not violate your policies." He also added, "it is clear Twitter has political bias in its algorithms and a troubling double standard." He wasn't the only one.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn tweeted, "Why on God's green Earth does the Taliban spokesman have an active Twitter account but not the former President of the United States? Who’s side is the AMERICA BASED Big-Tech companies on?" Rep. Claudia Tenney said, "The Taliban Spokesman has a Twitter account without any problem. Meanwhile, President Trump is banned from the platform. My account is search-banned and I have Congressional colleagues who are regularly suspended from the service. Something is very wrong here."



 



 

It wasn't just the GOP though, other social media users got on the act. One person said, "Apparently the Taliban is safer than Trump. According to Twitter." Another tweeted, "As an aside, it's pretty mad that the Taliban can have Twitter and Trump can't."



 



 

Others like Rep. Andy Briggs, Jason Miller and Rudy Giuliani have also waded in and tweeted about the odd difference in treatment. Twitter is yet to address if it will hand over official Afghan government accounts, which would set a major precedent for social media. It is unlikely to happen anytime soon though, as the world waits to see if the new Taliban government will be accepted by the US. 

Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.