Facebook joins Twitter and LinkedIn this week to secure the accounts of Afghan citizens to protect them against being targeted amid the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020.
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. (Reuters)

Facebook has released new security measures to protect users in Afghanistan after the lightning takeover of the country by the Taliban, who are already barred from the social media giant's platforms.

Following recommendations from activists, journalists and civil society groups, the company said users can now shield their posts from people they don't know.

Also, users of Facebook-owned Instagram in Afghanistan will receive notifications informing them of methods to protect their accounts.

"We're working closely with our counterparts in industry, civil society and government to provide whatever support we can to help protect people," tweeted Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook's security policy on Thursday.

He added that the company has temporarily removed the ability to view a user's friend list and search an accounts friends list in Afghanistan, to guard against the risk of targeting people possibly wanted by the Taliban.

On Thursday, Twitter Inc said it was in touch with civil society partners to provide support to groups in the country and was working with the Internet Archive to expedite direct requests to remove archived tweets.

It said if individuals were unable to access accounts containing information that could put them at risk, such as direct messages or followers, the company could temporarily suspend the accounts until users regain access and are able to delete their content.

Similarly, a LinkedIn spokesperson said the Microsoft-owned professional networking site had temporarily hidden the connections of its users in Afghanistan so other users would not be able to see them. 

WhatsApp helpline closed

The militants' takeover of Afghanistan poses tricky questions for tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter.

On WhatsApp, the account of Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid appears to have been blocked while the Financial Times reported that a Taliban WhatsApp helpline allowing citizens to report looting had been shut down.

WhatsApp's owner Facebook confirmed that it has for years viewed the Taliban as terrorists and is blocking the group's accounts on these networks, as well as Instagram.

The policy prompted a barbed response from Mujahid when asked if the Taliban would protect freedom of speech.

"The Facebook company, this question should be asked to them," he said.

READ MORE: Facebook blocking Taliban's WhatsApp helpline stirs criticism

Source: TRTWorld and agencies