The Lawfare Podcast: Why the Taliban Can’t Use Facebook

By Jen Patja Howell
Thursday, August 26, 2021, 5:01 AM

When the Taliban seized power following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan this month, major platforms like Facebook and Twitter faced a quandary. What should they do with accounts and content belonging to the fundamentalist insurgency that was suddenly running a country? Should they treat the Taliban as the Afghan government and let them post, or should they remove Taliban content under U.S. sanctions law?

If you’re coming at this from the tech sphere, you may have been seeing conversation in recent weeks about how this has raised new and difficult issues for platforms thrust into the center of geopolitics by questions of what to do about Taliban accounts. But, how new are these problems, really? On this week’s episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on our online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Scott R. Anderson, a senior editor at Lawfare and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, whom you might have heard on some other Lawfare podcasts about Afghanistan in recent weeks. They talked about the problems of recognition and sanctions law that platforms are now running into—and they debated whether or not the platforms are navigating uncharted territory, or whether they’re dealing with the same problems that other institutions, like banks, have long grappled with.