Foreign policy of tech companies in Afghanistan

This is a preview of the on-take Shera Ovid newsletter, now exclusive to Times users. Sign up to receive it in your inbox. Three times a week.

As the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other major Internet companies faced an uncomfortable decision: what should they do about the online accounts that the Taliban used to spread their message and their own Started using it to establish legal status?

The choice depends on whether online companies recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan or isolate them because of the group’s history of violence and oppression. International governments themselves are struggling.

I want us to stop and sit idly by the internet powers that are acting like largely unaccounted state departments. They don’t do it alone, and they really have no choice. It is still wild that a handful of unelected tech executives play a role in high-level global affairs.

One way the Taliban is trying to win the trust of Afghans is to see a legitimate government on social media, and internet companies are trying to figure out how to handle it.

Facebook has banned Taliban-linked accounts for years as part of its three-tier policy for “dangerous organizations” and the company said this week it would continue to remove Taliban accounts and posts. Guys who support the group. It also includes a helpline for Afghans on the WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. (The Taliban now control a country, but they are not allowed to start a Facebook group.)

Citing US sanctions on the Afghan Taliban, YouTube said it would also remove accounts that it believes run the group. Twitter is not completely banned, but it told CNN that any post or video must comply with laws that prohibit hate speech or incitement to violence. My colleagues Shera Frankl and Ben Decker looked for examples of pro-Taliban social media accounts and posts that exploded despite the restrictions, including a Facebook page that calls itself a grocery store but has been posting pro-Taliban messages in recent days. ۔

Those American Internet companies are guided by the laws of their home country and the laws of the countries in which they operate, and they seek their cues from the international community. But in the end, it’s the private companies that have to choose.

It was Facebook, YouTube and Twitter that decided in January that if President Donald J. Trump’s words were inflamed on their sites, they could incite more violence. Twitter had to make a choice when the Indian government ordered it to be considered a destructive speech by the country’s leadership and others believed that free expression was necessary in a democracy. When Myanmar’s military turned social media into a tool of ethnic cleansing, Facebook chose not to intervene (ignoring rather than taking an active decision).

In each case, unexpected technology executives in the United States had to make the final decisions that resonated with citizens and elected leaders. And unlike governments, Internet companies are practically accountable to the public if people do not agree with their decisions. Citizens cannot vote for Mark Zuckerberg outside office.

American companies have a long and often ugly history of influencing things away from home to protect their own interests. Media tycoons have helped start a war and choose their favorite candidates. The position of Facebook, YouTube and other American Internet companies feels different. Their products are so widely used that their influence is really no choice. They should act as diplomats whether they like it or not.

I’m almost sorry for the American Internet companies. (Approx.) They wanted to change the world, and they did. Now they are so powerful that they will have to make tough decisions about an imperfect world. He and I live with the results.


  • There is also a lack of technology. My colleague Jack Nickas writes that Apple’s plan to scan iPhones to root out child sexual abuse images has been criticized by security and privacy experts. Jack explains the painful fact that tracking technology harms ordinary people, and that technology that protects ordinary people can help criminals.

  • Self-driving cars are really, really difficult: Bloomberg News says some employees of Vimo, the sibling of Google’s driverless car, have lost confidence in the development of computer-powered cars. Many things, big and small, including the wrong wires in the car or traffic cones on the roads, can advance technology. (My colleague Cad Metz recently wrote about why driverless cars have made so much progress but still have a long way to go.)

  • The latest internet trend that will pass in five minutes: Vokes explained why videos of University of Alabama security recruits are ticking. It seems that the videos of people who are confused or angry that they are watching security videos help to spread these security videos more on tick tock. Is 2021 Internet Fun?!?!

Here is the theme song of “Jurassic Park”, in which Rob Goldberg is against the smooth rubber chickens. It’s stupid and I like it. (Thanks to my partner. Erin McCain To share it on Twitter.)


We want to hear from you. Let us know what you think of this newsletter and what you would like us to know. You can reach us. ontech@nytimes.com.

If you do not already receive this newsletter in your inbox, Please sign up here.. You can also read. Tech column on the past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.