Google Play Store features many apps for different tasks and entertainment that people can download for free, but a propaganda app showed up and was initially accepted by the app company. A propaganda app that the Taliban uploaded, titled “Pashto Afghan News — Alemara,” stayed on Play for two days before it was pulled by Google. The app reportedly featured videos and statements from the group’s main website, and was part of the Taliban’s efforts to attract a larger worldwide audience. Google pulled the app from the online store because of hate speech concerns when the US-based Intel Group, which monitors jihadist social network activity, spotted the propaganda app.
A Bloomberg article reported that a spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahed, gave a telephone interview on Sunday and said that the app “is part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience.” Apparently, the militant Taliban group is becoming more knowledgeable about using the internet and wireless technologies to increase their visibility, or at least draw a larger audience.
Though Google pulled the app, the group swears the app was only pulled for technical issues — Mujahed mentioned that the app was taken down Saturday in order to fix “some technical issues,” and that the app should reappear soon. But the Telegraph reported that a Google spokesman confirmed that the app was indeed taken down by Google.
“While we don’t comment on our specific apps, our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers. That’s why we remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies.”
Google Play has a specific policy about hate speech that is posted on their website.
“We don’t allow apps that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
According to Bloomberg, the app, which was in Pashto language, included content such as official statements and videos from the Taliban. The Taliban has sought insurgence in the country of Afghanistan for more than 14 years after it was ousted in 2001 with help from the U.S.
The Bloomberg article mentions that the Taliban has an updated website in five languages, including English and Arabic, and also has Twitter and Facebook accounts that provide daily reports on its insurgency. The Afghan government tries to halt the Taliban’s communication efforts by continuously taking the group’s website and Twitter accounts down.
Also speaking about the app was Jawid Kohistani, an independent security analyst based in Kabul.
“The app will help Taliban to further psychologically weaken Afghanistan by their propaganda reports.”
A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, Sediq Sediqqi, also spoke to Bloomberg by phone and said he wasn’t aware of the Taliban app.
The Taliban is apparently trying to compete with rival terrorist group, ISIS. ISIS has also shown their skill in using the internet to spread their message of hate. The Taliban recently rejected the opportunity for new peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the US, according to the Telegraph.
Efforts by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Telegram, and Anonymous have continually been in place to thwart the propaganda and hate speech put out by both the Taliban and ISIS. Both groups have supposedly declared jihad on not only the rest of the world and non-Muslims, but each other, as well.
According to Engadget, the Google Play Store received a half-million app submissions last year, so the online store screens thousands of apps per day, and an app review process was put in place by Google Play last year, so how the terrorist group was able to upload their app to the online store without Google’s knowledge is not clear.
[Photo by AP Photo, File]