Twitter removes blue checks bought by Taliban officials

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Twitter removes blue checks bought by Taliban officials

Twitter has apparently revoked the verified “blue check” status of senior members of the Taliban who reportedly paid the $8-a-month subscription fee.

At least two officials of the Islamic group that overran US-backed forces and took over the country before the American troop withdrawal in August 2021 subscribed to the Twitter Blue service introduced by new owner Elon Musk.

But after the BBC News service reported the Taliban officials’ verified status, Twitter appears to have canceled their subscriptions.

A glance at the Twitter account pages for Taliban officials Abdul Haq Hammad and Hedayatullah Hedayat showed that as of Tuesday there was no “blue check” next to their handles.

Several other public figures known to be affiliated with the Taliban were also reported to have bought the blue check, though the symbol was not visible as of Tuesday morning.

Hammad, whose account boasts more than 170,000 followers, is the head of the media watchdog unit at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture.

The account run by Hedayat, a top official in the Taliban’s “information department” who has more than 188,000 followers, had the blue check mark — as indicated by a screenshot that was posted by DailyMail.com.

An official with the Taliban's propaganda department paid for a blue check -- though Twitter appears to have revoked the privilege.
An official with the Taliban’s propaganda department paid for a blue check — though Twitter appears to have revoked the privilege.
hedayatullah111/Twitter

Since reassuming control over Afghanistan, the Taliban have allegedly committed widespread human rights violations, including the banning of women from schools and government jobs as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

A representative for Twitter, which fired its media relations department after Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of the company in late October, was not available for comment.

Before Musk bought Twitter, check marks were awarded to certain accounts as a means of conferring their status as public figures, including celebrities, politicians, entertainers, and prominent journalists.

Twitter rolled out its "Twitter Blue" subscription service in hopes of generating revenue.
Twitter rolled out its “Twitter Blue” subscription service in hopes of generating revenue.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

In December, Twitter re-introduced its “Twitter Blue” service in hopes of generating more revenue.

The service allowed users to pay an $8 monthly fee in exchange for a blue checkmark that grants them “priority ranking in search, mentions, and replies.”

But the initial rollout weeks earlier proved to be disastrous after pranksters assumed the online identities of political leaders and major corporations, including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

An imposter who hijacked the Eli Lilly name falsely tweeted that the company would be offering insulin for free — causing the stock price to plummet.

The mayhem prompted Musk to suspend the “Twitter Blue” service so as to put in safeguards that would prevent similar incidents in the future.

The Taliban is the fundamentalist Islamic group that overran pro-US forces in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021.
The Taliban is the fundamentalist Islamic group that overran pro-US forces in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021.
AP

The latest iteration of “Twitter Blue” includes a color-coded system whereby gold checkmarks are reserved for businesses while gray symbols are for governing authorities.

Musk on Monday took aim at the BBC, tweeting: “Kudos to the BBC for self-labeling its state affiliation.” It is unclear what prompted the tweet.

The tech mogul then changed his own Twitter bio to “state-affiliated media.”

On Sunday, a Twitter user asked if certain media entities should have a “state-affiliated media” label next to their handles.

Musk replied to the user: “Technically, Twitter should have that too.”

After taking over Twitter, Musk made internal files and Slack messages available to several journalists who published a series of stories known as “Twitter Files.”

The documents show that Twitter’s previous management was in constant communication with lawmakers — primarily Democrats — who sought to influence the social media company’s content moderation policies.

Human rights groups say the Taliban is guilty of widespread violations against women and minorities in Afghanistan.
Human rights groups say the Taliban is guilty of widespread violations against women and minorities in Afghanistan.
AP

]Musk has also reinstated the accounts of controversial individuals who were banned by the old management, including former President Donald Trump and author Jordan Peterson.

But Musk, who called himself a “free speech absolutist,” has also banned Kanye West after the rapper made several anti-Semitic statements.

He has also kept in place the ban on Alex Jones, the Infowars host who alleged that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax.

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