A senior leader of the Taliban, Anas Haqqani, who helped lead Taliban negotiations with Afghanistan’s former elected government, recently commented on the social media battle between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. According to the Taliban leader, Twitter has important advantages over other platforms.
He mentioned that the first advantage is the freedom of speech it provides. The second advantage is that Twitter is a public platform with credibility. He also expressed his dislike for Twitter’s main competitor, Threads, which was recently launched.
“Twitter doesn’t have an intolerant policy like Meta,” Haqqani wrote. “Other platforms cannot replace it.”
Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, describes himself as a supporter of free speech. However, his actions have been questioned as Twitter’s approval rate for censorship requests from governments has increased since he took over. Musk defended himself by stating that Twitter has no choice but to honor these requests.
The Taliban leader’s endorsement of Twitter is controversial. He joined the platform after being released from prison as part of a prisoner swap with the Taliban. He was previously charged with strategic decision-making and fundraising for the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group aligned with the Taliban.
The Haqqani Network, led by the Taliban founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, was considered a dangerous insurgent group during the US-led occupation of Afghanistan. Both the Haqqani Network and the Taliban have been designated as terrorist organizations by the US government.
Twitter is facing competition from decentralized social media networks like Mastodon and BlueSky. These platforms have attracted users who are unhappy with Musk’s leadership, his promotion of far-right content, and technical issues on Twitter.
However, Meta’s launch of Threads, a social network built off Instagram, poses a significant threat to Twitter, with over 100 million registered users in less than a week.
It is unlikely that designated terrorist groups will find a platform on Threads, as Meta has banned the Taliban from Facebook and has taken steps to remove Taliban members from WhatsApp. Taliban members joined Twitter in 2020 to challenge claims made by the previous Afghan government and to reach an international English-speaking audience. The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
“The Taliban wanted to counter their propaganda and that’s why we too focused ourselves on Twitter,” the Taliban member said. “Social media is a powerful tool to change public perception.”
At one point, some members of the Taliban were verified on Twitter with blue checkmarks. However, Musk changed the verification system, allowing anyone to purchase a blue checkmark. As a result, previously verified accounts that did not pay for verification had their checkmarks removed.
According to reports, Taliban leaders Hedayatullah Hedayat and Abdul Haq Hammad briefly appeared to have paid for blue checkmarks on Twitter.