How the Taliban Turned Social Media Into a Tool for Control

When the Taliban troops captured the key city of Herat on Friday last week, they distributed pictures and videos of militia leaders posing with Ismail Khan, a well-known local commander and Taliban opponent, showing him unrestrained and impartial.

The message is clear, said Mr Sayed: “If we can treat Ismail Khan, a top enemy, with such respect, no one is in danger.”

In Kabul, many Taliban-trained journalists were out on the streets, often holding a microphone with the logo of the group’s propaganda website in their hands. In a video posted on the Twitter account of Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, a reporter interviews residents in the Shahr-e Naw area of ​​Kabul. When he asks a boy about taking over the capital, the boy replies: “We are happy and have lived in peace.”

While some have responded positively to the news, the digital transfer of power has caused a shock to the most connected cities in Afghanistan. Many of the voices that once argued against Taliban posts have fallen silent for fear of retaliation. Digital rights groups have said that many people with ties to the former government or the United States have closed social media profiles, left chat groups, and deleted old messages.

When Mr Mujahid announced a press conference in a widespread WhatsApp journalist group this week, some members dropped out of the chat. One who worked for foreign media and asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation said journalists who wrote critically of the Taliban were concerned about backlash.

Even so, there have been some signs of resistance on social media. A video of a small group of women protesting in Kabul in the presence of Taliban fighters was broadcast on Tuesday. The next day, videos spread of an incident in Jalalabad in which the Taliban opened fire on a group of youths who had removed the militants’ flag and replaced it with that of the fallen Afghan government.

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