Policy

Top tech group adds the Taliban to list of terrorist organizations

Tech Against Terrorism, a UN-backed initiative, will compile Taliban content in its database and alert tech companies when it appears on their platforms.

A large growd of people facing away from the camera, heading toward high cement walls with barbed whire on them.

Afghans on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country.

Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

A key UN-backed group that advises the tech industry on dealing with terrorist groups online has added the Afghan Taliban to its list of terrorist organizations, sending a signal to tech companies that are grappling with how to handle the Taliban's takeover of the Afghan government.


Since last November, Tech Against Terrorism, a group launched by the UN Counterterrorism Executive Directorate, has been assembling a database of known terrorist content called the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform, or TCAP. The TCAP was designed in part to alert tech companies when content from its database appears on their platforms. But until now, that database has included content from only a small subset of terrorist organizations, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as far-right violent extremist groups, including the Proud Boys.

"The Taliban was one of the groups that we have considered adding to the TCAP for a long time, however in light of recent events in Afghanistan and to provide clarity for the tech companies we work with on this (admittedly challenging) content moderation issue, we have decided to accelerate inclusion of official Taliban content," Tech Against Terrorism wrote in a statement. "This decision is supported by designation in some jurisdictions, notably the EU, Canada, and the US Treasury."

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, questions have mounted for tech companies about how they plan to treat content associated with the Taliban, now that they have control of the government. The TCAP designation could provide some clarity, particularly for smaller companies with less capacity and expertise to make the decisions themselves.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, which was founded by Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter, also recently said it would begin relying on the TCAP for its own database of hashed URLs, which tech companies can use to automatically prevent known terrorist URLs from being posted on their platforms.

Both Tech Against Terrorism and the Global Forum have tiptoed into expanding their terrorist designations over the years, wary of stifling speech or bending too much to any single government's list of terrorist organizations. That makes Tech Against Terrorism's decision to include the Afghan Taliban in its database particularly swift. "Whilst we appreciate that this is a challenging moderation issue, the fact that the Taliban now effectively constitutes the Afghan government should not prevent platforms from implementing their rules in this area and from removing material produced by a designated terrorist organisation," Tech Against Terrorism said in its statement.

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