The Taliban Consolidate Power Using Social Media
How the Taliban are using modern platforms to change their perception.
With their recent takeover in Afghanistan the Taliban have turned to social media, a tool they previously shunned, to consolidate their power. The first time the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan in the 1990s, “they banned the internet and confiscated or destroyed television sets, cameras, and videotapes”, as stated by the BBC. Despite their past the Taliban have begun to use social media platforms, mainly Twitter, to promote their leadership and gain international authority and recognition.
Zabiullah Mujahid, an official spokesman for the Taliban, has more than 388,000 followers on Twitter. In addition, he has a group of social media volunteers promoting the Taliban ideology. Led by Qari Saeed Khosty, their main goal is to get the Taliban hashtags trending. Due to the lack of network coverage and data in Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) pays for data for those who promote their beliefs online. This demonstrates the blatant inequality that will continue under Taliban rule in addition to the glorification of Taliban fighters through their media content.
The Taliban’s use of social media can be considered as modern propaganda due to their promotion of peace and stability in opposition with the devastating chaos portrayed by the media of scenes in Kabul. Due to the nature of their content Facebook has banned Taliban accounts and they have stated they will continue to do so as the Taliban is a ‘dangerous organization’. However, they continue to have access to and post liberally on Twitter and YouTube.
Not only is the social media presence of the Taliban dangerous in terms of the spread of propaganda, but they are also using these platforms to target people who have previously spoken out against their regime. Many Afghans who were condemning the Taliban via social media have now deactivated their accounts, left chats, and deleted past messages as the Taliban have reportedly been searching for people through these platforms.
Despite the danger or speaking out on social media now, according to the New York Times, it is expected that there will soon be waves of online resistance by the youth who grew up under the now removed government.