The Washington Post has come under fire for suggesting that the “strikingly sophisticated” Taliban incite less violence on social media than former President Donald Trump.
The outlet published a report on Wednesday titled, “Today’s Taliban uses sophisticated social media practices that rarely violate the rules.” The report said social media accounts run by the Taliban, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, often stayed “within the evolving boundaries of taste and content that tech companies use to police user behavior.” As a result, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has been posting freely on Twitter and has gained more than 326,000 followers.
Some analysts have defended the Washington Post’s report. “The answer, analysts said, may simply be that Trump’s posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence. Today’s Taliban, by and large, does not,” the Washington Post’s article said.
The report did attract some fierce criticism from Twitter users. “Sure they ran a national armed insurrection, assumed full non-democratic control of the country, hate and punish gays & women, and they are slaughtering innocents, but hey… unlike bad orange man, the Taliban ARE following @Twitter’s Terms of Service,” Doug Karr tweeted.
“Can’t believe this s–t – @washingtonpost praised Taliban’s ‘sophisticated use of social media (posting regularly on Twitter) also described them as ‘A movement rooted in traditional moral code’ while saying the terror group incites less violence than Donald Trump. Seriously?” Vikrant Kumar said.
“The Taliban are literally jumping on women in the streets and yall are praising them saying they’re calmer than Trump supporters,” Twitter user Koaz wrote. Another user pointed to the Post’s slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness,” saying: “It’s already dead and buried in your appalling praise for the Taliban, and your juvenile and imbecilic comparison of them with Trump.”
“The Taliban is clearly threading the needle regarding social media content policies and is not yet crossing the very distinct policy-violating lines that Trump crossed,” she said. According to the Post, Twitter is the only US social media company that allows the Taliban to maintain an active presence. Facebook and Instagram have policies in place that can ban the Taliban from promoting their message.