The Taliban website, which conveyed the official message of the victorious insurgents to Afghans and the world in five languages, suddenly went offline on Friday, indicating that they were trying to suppress them.
However, it is still unclear why Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, English and Dari websites went offline on Friday. They are protected by Cloudflare, a content delivery network and denial of service protection provider based in San Francisco.
Cloudflare did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment on the development, which was first reported by the Washington Post. The Cloudflare shield prevents the public from knowing who the host of the website is.
According to Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks online extremism, also on Friday, the popular encrypted messaging service WhatsApp deleted some Taliban organizations.
With the Taliban getting new hosting arrangements, the disappearance of these sites may only be temporary. But according to reports, after the US-backed Afghan government fell into the hands of the Taliban, the service’s parent company Facebook banned Taliban accounts on Tuesday and subsequently reportedly deleted WhatsApp groups.
WhatsApp spokesperson Danielle Meister did not confirm the deletion, but referred to the Associated Press a statement issued by the company earlier this week stating that it is “obligated to comply with U.S. sanctions laws.” This includes banning accounts that appear to represent themselves as official Taliban accounts”.”
Katz said via email that she hopes to remove the Taliban website is only the first step in reducing its online presence.
Katz said that unlike the Taliban that the United States overthrew power in Afghanistan 20 years ago, the Taliban today are very media-savvy, and their online infrastructure “inspires and mobilizes” Al Qaeda and other extreme Islamic factions.
She added: “Tech companies should do their best to solve this problem as soon as possible, because the organization’s online presence is setting off a new bold jihadist movement around the world.”
Twitter has not deleted the Taliban account. Zabihullah Mujahid, the organization’s spokesperson, has more than 300,000 followers there. The company said on Tuesday that such accounts will continue to exist as long as they comply with its rules—including not inciting or glorifying violence.
Like Facebook, Google’s YouTube treats the Taliban as a terrorist organization and prohibits it from operating accounts.
The Taliban are not on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the US imposes sanctions on them.