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Washington Post: 5 Taliban websites disappear amid moves to limit their activity

Five Taliban websites that were key to how the militant group's official messages were delivered in and out of Afghanistan suddenly went offline on Friday, a sign that moves to limit the Taliban's online access are gaining momentum.

The newspaper pointed out that it was not immediately clear who or what stopped the Taliban websites from working, although all five sites were protected by CloudFlare, a San Francisco-based company that helps websites deliver content and defend against cyber attacks. A request for comment was made Friday on whether it was still protecting the Taliban websites, which have versions in Pashto, Dari, Arabic, Urdu and English, all of which were offline.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism, said that many WhatsApp groups used by the Taliban had also been shut down by Friday. to Facebook, which in turn banned the official Taliban accounts from its services.

WhatsApp spokeswoman Alison Bonney declined to comment on whether the company had taken new action against the Taliban, but reiterated previous Facebook statements on the matter in general: "We are obligated to comply with US sanctions laws. This includes blocking accounts that appear to provide itself as official accounts of the Taliban. We are seeking more information from the relevant US authorities in view of the evolving situation in Afghanistan.”

Today, the Taliban use sophisticated social media practices that rarely violate the rules.

Notably, Twitter has not followed a similar policy of shutting down Taliban accounts on its platform, reflecting both the company's various rulings and the ambiguity of US policy and law.

The State Department designated the Pakistani Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization but did not apply the same designation to the Afghan Taliban. However, the Afghan Taliban is listed as a sanctioned entity under provisions of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Twitter has allowed several official Taliban accounts, including some used by the group's spokesmen, to continue operating as long as they adhere to rules against objectionable content, such as inciting violence through tweets.