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Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are scrambling to protect Afghan users

The social networks have begun hiding lists of friends or connections along with other steps to safeguard Afghan users who may fear reprisal from the Taliban.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are scrambling to protect Afghan users
[Source Photo: drduey/iStock]

Since the Taliban gained control of Kabul this week, people across Afghanistan have started scrubbing their social media accounts to shield themselves from potential retaliation. A number of tech companies have taken steps to help protect users who might be associated with Western countries or the fallen Afghan government—the type of people who have previously been targeted by the Taliban.

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On Thursday, Facebook’s head of security policy shared on Twitter that the company had restricted the ability to view and search friends lists for users based in Afghanistan. Facebook also introduced a “one-click” tool that would allow Afghan citizens to swiftly lock their accounts if necessary. LinkedIn has taken a similar approach by temporarily disabling the ability to view connections for all users in Afghanistan.

Twitter has said it is working with the Internet Archive to push through requests to remove archived tweets, and that the platform may suspend accounts on a case-by-case basis if they are compromised and users have concerns about sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. The company is also keeping tabs on accounts run by government organizations.

Social media platforms have been slow to extend these sorts of protections to users in Afghanistan, and as NBC News reported recently, many of them don’t even offer help pages in local Afghan languages. Many users want the ability to remove sensitive information without deleting their accounts altogether, especially if they rely on social media platforms for information or to communicate with friends and family.

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Though Facebook and Instagram have already banned Taliban-related content, encrypted platforms like WhatsApp are far more difficult to monitor. Despite these bans, the Taliban has reportedly already opened more than 100 new accounts and pages across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company.

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