Anas Haqqani, a Taliban thought-leader with family connections to leadership, has officially endorsed Twitter over Facebook-owned competitor Threads.“Twitter has two important advantages over other social media platforms,” Haqqani said in an English post on Twitter. “The first privilege is the freedom of speech. The second privilege is the public nature & credibility of Twitter. Twitter doesn't have an intolerant policy like Meta. Other platforms cannot replace it.”
Twitter has fallen out of favor with many people since Elon Musk took over the company last year. Musk’s changes to verification and slackening moderation policy have led a lot of subject matter experts, advertisers, and regular users to flee the platform. The Taliban, however, seems to love it. Two Taliban officials even bought blue verification check marks after Musk started selling them in January.Haqqani noted that the biggest draw of Twitter was this lax moderation policy. After the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan central government in 2021, the Taliban became the legitimate leaders of the country. The Taliban is aggressive about using social media to push its message. Some former fighters have even bemoaned the amount of time they spend on the computer compared to their freewheeling past. Facebook and TikTok both view the Taliban as a terrorist organization and disallow them from posting. It’s a ban that persists to this day.To say that Twitter has had a lot of problems lately is an understatement. The site briefly limited the amount of tweets users could see earlier this month, annihilated its credibility by charging for blue verification check marks, and can’t keep a lid on hate speech. Competitors like Bluesky and, now, Threads have rushed to fill the void.But Bluesky is a weird place filled with lovely, if niche, shitposts. It’s also small in comparison to the newly launched Zuckerberg-backed knock off. Threads, despite garnering over 100 million users in the week after it launched, feels like a desolate landscape where brands and influencers can talk to each other while everyone else watches. Many journalists and governments still use Twitter. Despite Musk’s mistakes, it’s still a place where, say, you can hear a Taliban official's thoughts on the current state of social media.Aram Shabanian, an OSINT manager at New Lines Institute, told Motherboard he was surprised that the Taliban would endorse the “up-and-coming warlordism of Elon Musk's Twitter.” “Zuckerberg is clearly the Mullah Omar of this situation,” Shabanian said, referring to the founder of the Taliban and previous ruler of Afghanistan.. “You may not like him, but at least you know what you're getting. And it's uniform across platforms and districts. Unlike going with Musk, who represents a lawless, profit-driven society. Musk is all balls, no shaft, as the ancient Armenian proverb goes.”Update 7/10/23: This article originally called Haqqani a leader of the Taliban. His role is more philosophical.