The Taliban on Twitter

Also see these associated resource pages that support our video, “TWITTER EXPOSED: Enabling the Taliban – but stopping a campaign to rescue US allies from the Taliban”:

By Jon Sutz

Name: The Taliban, which now rules what it calls the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Twitter handles:
Five (see Section 2)
On Twitter since: 2021
Twitter follower count as of April 2022: 1,877,100 (combined, among five top Taliban officials whom Twitter allows to have accounts)


(1) Background: What is the Taliban?

(2) Twitter profits by enabling the Taliban’s top officials

(3) But why would the Taliban even want to use Twitter, being that it was created and is run by “infidels”? Because, as they say, “We too want to change perceptions”

(4) Why Twitter says it chose to enable the Taliban

(5) More: The history of the Taliban

(6) Updates

(1) Background: What is the Taliban?

Wazir Nazari, a member of Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazara minority, was shot in the face by Taliban assailants, her father said. (Wall St. Journal)

The Taliban is one of the world’s most brutal Islamist terror gangs. Its adherents claim to be soldiers of God, who enforce totalitarian Islamic law (sharia) over Afghanistan’s 39 million people. They allow no dissent, no challenge to their authority, and anyone who deviates from sharia faces severe punishment, often death.

Since August 2021, the Taliban has been hunting down and murdering Afghans who worked with US and Coalition forces — using data, weapons and vehicles that America left behind in its botched withdrawal:

Then there is the Taliban’s brutal oppression of members of the LGBT community, as documented in this article by Pink News, a leading gay news site, on August 15, 2022:

Little is said in the mainstream media or our arts about the Taliban’s extreme intolerance of the LGBT community, or the broader anti-LGBT view throughout the Afghan culture. One may reasonably speculate that were this to become common knowledge, Americans might demand tougher scrutiny of anyone from Afghanistan who shows up at the US southern border, requesting entry – or who was able to board a US evacuation plane, without any kind of effective screening:

As Biden administration fails Afghan allies, more make perilous trip to US southern border Washington Examiner, September 2, 2022.

Is the US govt releasing Taliban operatives onto US soil? An Afghan immigrant sounds the alarm – by “Nick”,* SaveTheWest,

(2) Twitter profits by enabling the Taliban’s top officials

Twitter enables the Taliban’s top five “government” officials (the unelected leader, the emir, does not use Twitter):

Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban Spokesman, @Zabehulah_M33
Joined Twitter 2017. His follower count grew from 371,000 followers in September 2021, to 541,200 in April 2022, to 604,500 in June 2022 (a 63% increase – in nine months).

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, Taliban Spokesman, @QyAhmadi21
Joined Twitter 2020. His follower count grew from 119,900 followers in April 2022 to 130,500 in June 2022 (a 9% increase – in two months).

Naeem Wardak, Spokesman of the Political Office, @IeaOffice 
Archive captures: His follower count grew from 356,700 followers in April 2022 to 385,100 in June 2022 (an 8% increase – in two months).

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, Spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, @QaharBalkhi
Archive captures: His follower count grew from 112,200 followers in April 2022 to 133,900 followers in June 2022 (a 20% increase – in two months).

Suhail Shaheen, UN representative, @suhailshaheen1
Archive captures: His follower count grew from 602,900 followers in April 2022 to 623,200 followers in June 2022 (a 3% increase – in two months).

Taliban follower tally

Zabihullah Mujahid 604,500
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi 130,500
Naeem Wardak 385,100
Abdul Qahar Balkhi 133,900
Suhail Shaheen 623,200

Analysis: How Twitter makes money by enabling the Taliban, and to what extent

Since the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan in July-August 2021. which enabled the Taliban to take control over the entire nation, Twitter has profited by enabling its top figures to use its platform. Here’s how:

The overwhelming majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising — meaning, it sells ads to those wishing to promote products, services or causes to its vast global audience. As of January 2022, Twitter had an estimated 436 million worldwide users (although prospective purchaser Elon Musk contends many are illegitimate, non-human accounts, or “bots,” automatically created for nefarious purposes).

Assuming for sake of argument that Twitter’s claim, that roughly 5% (or less) of its user base (22 million) consists of “bots” is legitimate, that means that there are about 414 million actual global Twitter users

As shown below, the Taliban’s top five Twitter users have amassed 1,800,000 followers. 

This means that slightly less than 1/2 of 1% of Twitter’s users are followers of the Taliban.  

Twitter reportedly earned $5.1 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2021. This means that, from an analytical perspective, Taliban followers may have helped generate $25 million in revenue fro Twitter in its last fiscal year.

While the actual amount of revenue the Taliban’s significant follower base generated fro Twitter may be arguable, what is not in dispute is the fact that Twitter profits by enabling the Taliban.

(3) But why would the Taliban even want to use Twitter, being that it was created and is run by “infidels”? Because, as they say, “We too want to change perceptions”

The Taliban embrace social media: ‘We too want to change perceptions’ – BBC News, September 6, 2021. Excerpt:

Zabihullah Mujahid’s first Twitter account was suspended by the company, but his new account – active since 2017 – has more than 371,000 followers. Underneath him is a dedicated team of volunteers promoting the Taliban’s ideology online.The reported head of that group – effectively the social media director of the IEA – is Qari Saeed Khosty.

Mr Khosty told the BBC the team had separate groups focused on Twitter – attempting to get Taliban hashtags trending – as well as disseminating messages on WhatsApp and Facebook.

“Our enemies have television, radio, verified accounts on social media and we have none, yet we fought with them on Twitter and Facebook and defeated them,” Mr Khosty said.

His job, he said, was to take people who had joined the Taliban because of its ideology and “bring them to social media platforms so they amplify our message”.

Update, September 1, 2022: Taliban spokesman says it wants to have good relations with other nations, even Israel:

This interview features Naeem Wardak, Spokesman of the Taliban’s Political Office (@IeaOffice):

(4) Why Twitter says it chose to enable the Taliban

Here are some news items that present information on why Twitter’s management decided to profit by enabling the Taliban:

Why Twitter Allows The Taliban To Maintain Accounts On Its Platform – Yahoo News, August 18th 2021.

Twitter Allowing Taliban to Remain if They Don’t Share Violent Content – MediaIte, August 17th 2021.

Twitter Refuses to Ban Taliban Accounts, Vows to Remain ‘Vigilant’ Moderating Content The Wrap, August 17th 2021.

Taliban allowed on Twitter, as social media debates role in Afghanistan crisis – Sinclair Broadcast Group, August 17th 2021.

Of note:

‘Strikingly sophisticated’ Taliban thrive on Twitter while Trump still bannedThe Hill, August 20, 2021.

Trump barred from Twitter, but Taliban spokesman tweets away – Fox News, August 15, 2021.

(5) More: The history of the Taliban

I also created a separate page of videos, below, of reporting from, and about Afghanistan, since America’s withdrawal in July-August 2021 led to the Taliban’s takeover:

Videos about America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the aftermath — Jon Sutz

For now, here are a few select introductory videos about the Taliban:

(6) Updates

It is reasonable to speculate that at least part of the reason why Twitter chose to enable the Taliban — but shut down our campaign to raise money to help rescue US allies’ families from the Taliban — is due to an astonishing lack of popular knowledge about what the Taliban actually is, and does. This speculation is verified, at least in part, by a video that filmmaker Ami Horowitz produced in October 2021, in which he asked students at UC-Berkeley if they’d be willing to donate to a fund to help the Taliban. Excerpts from his “pitch”:

“We want to be able to train our fighters to strike back against American interests around the world and in the homeland. There’s a lot of weapons that were left there, we need money to train them how to use it against American forces. Before America got there, we used it as a base to strike against America, we want to do that again.”

Here was the result:

Previously: See students’ reactions to Horowitz waving an ISIS flag, then an Israeli flag, at UC-Berkeley, here.

July 21, 2022: Human rights activist speaks on the Taliban’s brutal oppression of females in Afghanistan

July 19, 2022: Afghan “journalist” uploads Taliban propaganda video to Twitter

The time limit for videos uploaded to Twitter is 2 minutes 20 seconds (as opposed to posting links to YouTube videos, which can be of any length).

In this case, the video uploaded is exactly 2 minutes 20 seconds.

In case Twitter eventually removes this video, here is a screencap of what appeared at this link:

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