The Washington Post has come under fire for suggesting the “strikingly sophisticated” Taliban incite less violence on social media than former President Donald Trump.
The outlet published a report on Wednesday titled: “Today’s Taliban uses sophisticated social media practices that rarely violate the rules.”
The report said social media accounts run by the Taliban, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, often stayed “within the evolving boundaries of taste and content that tech companies use to police user behavior.”
As a result, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has been posting freely on Twitter and has racked up more than 326,000 followers.
Meanwhile, former President Trump remains banned from the platform in the wake of the Capitol riots — something which a number of conservatives have questioned and Trump himself slammed Wednesday.
“The answer, analysts said, may simply be that Trump’s posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence. Today’s Taliban, by and large, does not,” the Post’s article said.
But the comparison between Trump and the Taliban sparked backlash on Twitter.
“Sure they ran a national armed insurrection, assumed full non-democratic control of the country, hate and punish gays & women, and they are slaughtering innocents, but hey… unlike bad orange man, the Taliban ARE following @Twitter’s Terms of Service,” Doug Karr tweeted.
“Can’t believe this s–t – @washingtonpost praised Taliban’s ‘sophisticated use of social media (posting regularly on Twitter) also described them as “A movement rooted in traditional moral code” while saying the terror group incites less violence than Donald Trump. Seriously?” Vikrant Kumar said.
“The taliban are literally jumping on women in the streets and yall are praising them saying they’re calmer than Trump supporters,” Twitter user Koaz wrote.
Another user pointed the Post’s slogan: Democracy dies in darkness, saying: “It’s already dead and buried in your appalling praise for the Taliban, and your juvenile and imbecillic comparison of them with Trump.”
SITE Intelligence Group’s Rita Katz told the Post that the Taliban hadn’t yet defied social media policies that would warrant them being banned.
“The Taliban is clearly threading the needle regarding social media content policies and is not yet crossing the very distinct policy-violating lines that Trump crossed,” she said.
Katz added, however, that it didn’t mean the Taliban shouldn’t be taken off social media.
According to the Post, Twitter is the only US social media company that allows the Taliban to maintain an active presence.
Facebook and Instagram have policies in place that can ban the Taliban from promoting its message.
The Post’s article said analysts also believed the Taliban had enlisted the help of at least one public relations company to advise them on how to push content in a similar way to political campaigns.