Boston — The Taliban website, which delivered the official message of the militant group in five languages to Afghanistan and around the world, suddenly went offline on Friday, indicating that they were trying to squelch them.
However, it’s not immediately clear why Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, English, and Dari sites went offline on Friday. They were a San Francisco-based content delivery network protected by Cloudflare, a denial of service protection provider.
Cloudflare hasn’t responded to emails or phone calls asking for comments on the development originally reported by The Washington Post. Cloudflare Shield prevents the public from knowing who is hosting your site exactly.
Also on Friday, the popular encrypted messaging service WhatsApp removed many Taliban groups, according to Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks online radicalism.
The disappearance of the website may be temporary as the Taliban has secured a new hosting agreement. However, the reported removal of the WhatsApp group followed a ban on Taliban accounts by the service’s parent company Facebook on Tuesday after the US-backed Afghan government fell into the Taliban.
WhatsApp spokesperson Daniel Meister did not confirm the removal, but told the Associated Press in a statement released earlier this week that he was “obliged to comply with US sanctions laws.” This includes a ban on accounts that appear to represent themselves as Taliban official accounts. “
Katz said in an email that he hopes that the removal of the Taliban website is only the first step towards reducing its online presence.
Unlike the Taliban 20 years ago when the United States seized power in Afghanistan, the Taliban today is very media savvy and its online infrastructure “stimulates and mobilizes” al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic factions. Katz said.
“Technologists need to do what they can to resolve this issue as soon as possible, as the group’s online presence is sparking a new and bold jihad movement around the world,” she added.
Twitter has not deleted the Taliban account, and group spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has more than 300,000 followers. The company said on Tuesday that they would be maintained as long as they adhered to the rules, including that such accounts would not incite or praise violence.
Like Facebook, Google’s YouTube considers the Taliban to be a terrorist organization and bans account operations.
The Taliban is not on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in the United States, but the United States imposes sanctions on it.