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Jason Asenso
By Jason Asenso August 23, 2021

Twitter hasn’t suspended Afghanistan’s president, but they have suspended two other accounts

If Your Time is short

  • Twitter hasn’t suspended Afghanistan’s president. Two other accounts associated with the government are suspended as Twitter awaits identity verification from them.

  • The Taliban is allowed on Twitter so long as they don’t break the platform’s rules, and so far, they have been careful not to.

As the Taliban consolidates control over Afghanistan, the debate over whether its accounts should be allowed on social media platforms has intensified.

"BREAKING: Twitter has suspended the account of Afghanistan’s elected President…

And have allowed the Taliban to keep their accounts. Can’t make this up," reads the text of an Aug. 19 Instagram post. The Instagram post is a screenshot of a tweet by conservative activist Ryan Fournier.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. Instagram is owned by Facebook. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

In the wake of the U.S. military’s withdrawal, the Taliban has beaten back the Afghan government as the two fight for power over the country. As the situation unfolded, a new Afghan president rose to power, and Twitter suspended two government accounts.

Afghanistan’s new president

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani fled to the United Arab Emirates as the Taliban closed in on Kabul on Aug. 15, according to CNN. Two days later, Afghanistan’s First Vice President ​​Amrullah Saleh declared himself the "caretaker," or acting, president.

"As per the constitution of Afghanistan, in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP (First Vice President) becomes the caretaker President," Saleh tweeted on Aug. 17. While Afghanistan’s Constitution does not include "escape" or "caretaker" in the English translation, Article 60 allows the first vice president to become president under these circumstances.

The Twitter account Saleh used to tweet this is not suspended as of this writing, and neither is Ghani’s. However, there are two other accounts affiliated with Afghanistan’s president and Saleh’s political party that Twitter has suspended. Twitter suspended the accounts @Afghpresident and @AfgGreenTrend as of Aug. 23.

In an email with PolitiFact, a spokesperson from Twitter said, "We’re proactively monitoring accounts affiliated with government organizations, and we may temporarily suspend accounts pending additional information from the account holder that allows us to confirm their identity."

Both of these accounts seem to be legitimate. For example, the Associated Press called @Afghpresident the "de facto official presidential account" of Afghanistan in its reporting on the suspension. The Afghanistan Green Trend party used @AfgGreenTrend to update the public following an attack that injured Saleh and killed at least two others in 2019.

Featured Fact-check

The Instagram post implies that Twitter suspended these accounts to legitimize the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan, but there is no evidence of this. There is also no evidence that Twitter suspended the accounts to retaliate against Saleh, as some users and outlets have suggested, since Saleh’s account where he declared himself president is still active.

The Taliban’s Twitter

As for the Taliban’s accounts, representatives from Facebook and YouTube told the New York Times that they consider the Taliban a terrorist organization and forbid the group from operating on their platforms. However, Twitter has taken a different route when dealing with accounts linked to the Taliban.

The Taliban isn’t banned from Twitter, but Twitter’s spokesperson told us they would take action against any content that violates their policies on glorifying violence, abusive behavior, hateful conduct, wishes of harm and gratuitous gore.

One Taliban spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, has over 390,000 followers and recently tweeted that the group welcomes Afghans who have previously worked with the U.S. or the Afghan government’s administration. The Taliban has promised this before, but some Afghans believe they will be executed if the Taliban finds out about their previous work.

As the situation in Afghanistan continues to evolve, we’ll have to see whether Twitter will continue to allow the Taliban on their platform or if their accounts break the website’s rules.

According to the Washington Post, the Taliban has been careful to avoid suspension as they use social media to spread propaganda and present an image different from when they were last in power. 

Meanwhile, some on Twitter have asked why the Taliban is permitted on Twitter while former President Donald Trump is not. Twitter permanently suspended Trump for tweets he sent after the riot at the Capitol.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that "Twitter has suspended the account of Afghanistan’s elected President and have allowed the Taliban to keep their accounts."

Twitter has not suspended the accounts of either acting president Amrullah Saleh or his predecessor Ashraf Ghani.
The two Twitter accounts @Afghpresident and @AfgGreenTrend are currently suspended. Twitter likely suspended the accounts pending verification of who controls them.

Taliban spokespeople have active accounts on Twitter, but they have not broken any of Twitter's rules and are still allowed on the platform.

We rate this claim Half True.

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Twitter hasn’t suspended Afghanistan’s president, but they have suspended two other accounts

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