Twitter is well-known for its bent to ban any user — even former President Donald Trump — for not adhering to rules interpreted by gatekeepers at the decidedly left-wing social media platform.
So why does the un-woke Taliban — with its bloodthirsty reputation and unapologetic, misogynistic codes — manage to survive on Twitter?
Simply put, according to the Washington Post, the Taliban and its numerous agents have become adept at following the rules of Twitter.
What are the details?
"The Taliban of today is immensely savvy with technology and social media — nothing like the group it was 20 years ago," Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism, told the Post.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, for example, sports over 350,000 Twitter followers, the paper said.
"The Islamic Emirate has ordered its Mujahideen and once again instructs them that no one is allowed to enter anyone's house without permission," Shaheen tweeted Sunday as the Taliban rolled through Afghanistan and took over Kabul. "Life, property and honor of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the Mujahedeen."
Trump — the former leader of the free world who still enjoys an immense following — couldn't tweet about his latest round of golf at Mar-a-Lago if he got down on his knees and begged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
The Post noted that "Trump's posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence" while the Taliban does not. Katz added to the paper that 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."
However, Katz added to the Post that what's happening at present "doesn't mean at all that the Taliban shouldn't be removed from social media, because the waves of propaganda and messaging it is spreading — permissible as it may seem by some content policy standards — is fueling a newly emboldened and extremely dangerous global Islamist militant movement."
More from the Post:
The tactics overall show such a high degree of skill that analysts believe at least one public relations firm is advising the Taliban on how to push key themes, amplify messages across platforms, and create potentially viral images and video snippets — much like corporate and political campaigns do across the world.
One image from a video circulated online in Afghanistan shows Taliban fighters dressed in camouflage and brandishing machines guns while posing unmolested in an eastern province, not far from Kabul, under a gorgeous pink and blue sky. The text below, in Pashto and English, reads, "IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF FREEDOM."
Wide distribution of such propaganda imagery would have been almost impossible for an insurgent movement there a generation ago, before the arrival of smartphones, Internet connections, and free social media services brought unprecedented online reach to Afghanistan. The nation lags the world in Internet connectivity but it has grown sharply over the past decade amid a gush of international investment.
What does Twitter have to say?
While the likes of Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok are resolute in their determination to shut down Taliban-related posts and videos, the paper said Twitter is not removing accounts purporting to speak for the Taliban.
Mediaite reported that when a Twitter spokesman was asked if the social media giant would join other tech companies in banning the terror group, he "sidestepped the question" and said in a statement that Twitter would "continue to proactively enforce" its rules on the "glorification of violence, platform manipulation and spam."
The Post also reported that the Taliban and its supporters "have large numbers of accounts linked across numerous platforms to keep its messaging machinery from being easily squelched by the actions of one or two tech companies."
"Based on the sheer volume of output, several of the accounts are run by individuals whose primary job may well be social media," Darren Linvill, lead researcher for the Clemson University Media Forensics Hub, told the paper. "These accounts aren't run by Taliban leaders or fighters; they are run by individuals with uninterrupted Internet access on both a desktop and handheld device, as well as decent English language skills."
More from the Post:
As it became clear in recent months that the Americans were going to finally leave, the Taliban's tactics grew still more sophisticated, with messages heralding each advance on the battlefield and promising that a better Afghanistan lay ahead.
One message on the Taliban's English-language website in April attacked feminism as "a colonial tool" and claimed that it "attacks the institution of family in a family-centric Muslim society." Another the following month espoused the importance of freedom of the press, calling it "essential for every society and country."
The Taliban's social media tactics in recent months can be seen as fitting a broader charm offensive — including recent conciliatory public remarks about pardoning those who worked with Americans and urging skilled people not to flee the country. At a news conference Tuesday, spokesman Shaheen made a point of calling on a female journalist and foreign reporters.
But Emerson Brooking — a resident senior fellow for the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, which is a Washington-based think tank — told the paper that skepticism may not be bad idea when it comes to the Taliban's social media machinations.
"We should be deeply distrustful of it," Brooking told the Post. "Recriminations will come later."