Elon Musk’s approach of rejecting censorship and defending freedom of speech on Twitter has received some unexpected support from Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban.
Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official with no government portfolio, said that the social media platform had “two major advantages” over other platforms.
“The first advantage is freedom of expression. The second is the public nature and credibility of Twitter”, he tweeted.
“Twitter doesn’t have the intolerant politics of Meta. Other platforms can’t replace it”, Haqqani added.
The comments came a few days after Meta launched its new social network, Threads, which is designed to rival Twitter.
This message drew fierce criticism, with some people pointing out that the Taliban does not allow its citizens the same rights in terms of freedom of expression.
Afghans’ activity on social networks is closely monitored by the Taliban authorities, and many people have been arrested for criticizing the government.
Since their return to power in August 2021, the Taliban have greatly increased their presence on social networks. But many of their accounts, or those of their supporters, have been blocked, sometimes as quickly as they were created.
The Taliban government now uses Twitter for its main announcements and most ministries have official accounts.
None of them seem to have paid for the blue tick since Twitter changed its account certification system at the beginning of the year.
Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is actively closing accounts associated with the Taliban.
Accounts with the words “Taliban”, “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” or featuring the movement’s distinctive white flag are quickly closed, according to social network observers.
Last year, Facebook closed the pages of RTA, Afghanistan’s public radio and television station, and the Bakhtar news agency, saying it was complying with US law that lists the Taliban as a “terrorist organisation”.
Elon Musk, who acquired Twitter last year, has restored tens of thousands of accounts that had been blocked, including that of former US president Donald Trump.
Some belonged to conspiracy theorists or opponents of vaccination, or had been suspended for misinformation, harassment and expressions of hatred.
Anas Haqqani, brother of the influential Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of the young figures of the Taliban movement.
Followed by more than 500,000 people on Twitter, he expresses himself – often in English – on a variety of subjects, from cricket to poetry, via national and international politics.