Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn secure Afghan users' accounts amid Taleban takeover

Human rights groups have voiced concerns that the Taleban could use online platforms to track Afghans' digital histories or social connections.
Human rights groups have voiced concerns that the Taleban could use online platforms to track Afghans' digital histories or social connections.PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

KABUL (REUTERS) - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn said this week they had moved to secure the accounts of Afghan citizens to protect them against being targeted amid the Taleban's swift takeover of the country.

Facebook has temporarily removed the ability for people to view or search the friends lists of accounts in Afghanistan, its security policy head Nathaniel Gleicher tweeted on Thursday (Aug 19).

Mr Gleicher also said the company had launched a "one-click tool" for users in Afghanistan to lock down their accounts, so people who are not their Facebook friends would be unable to see their timeline posts or share their profile photos.

Human rights groups have voiced concerns that the Taleban could use online platforms to track Afghans' digital histories or social connections. Amnesty International said this week that thousands of Afghans, including academics, journalists and human rights defenders, were at serious risk of Taleban reprisals.

The former captain of the Afghan women's football team has also urged players to delete social media and erase their public identities.

Twitter said it was in touch with civil society partners to provide support to groups in the country and was working with the Internet Archive to expedite direct requests to remove archived tweets.

It said if individuals were unable to access accounts containing information that could put them at risk, such as direct messages or followers, the company could temporarily suspend the accounts until users regain access and are able to delete their content.

Twitter also said it was proactively monitoring accounts affiliated with government organisations and might temporarily suspend accounts pending additional information to confirm their identity.

A LinkedIn spokesman said the Microsoft-owned professional networking site had temporarily hidden the connections of its users in Afghanistan so other users would not be able to see them.