It wasn’t clear why the websites went down. The Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, English and Dari sites were previously protected by San Francisco-based Cloudflare, which shields the site host from being revealed to the public. Cloudflare has not commented on the reports.
The downed sites may be due to an effort to limit the group’s internet reach, the Washington Post reported, although it could be temporary as the group secures new online hosting arrangements.
Encrypted message service WhatsApp – owned by Facebook — also reportedly removed a number of Taliban-linked accounts on Friday. Facebook has banned pro-Taliban content on its sites.
“We’re obligated to adhere to U.S. sanctions laws,” WhatsApp spokeswoman Alison Bonny told the Post, without confirming the removals. “This includes banning accounts that appear to represent themselves as official accounts of the Taliban. We’re seeking more information from relevant U.S. authorities given the evolving situation in Afghanistan.”
Conversely, Twitter has allowed some high-profile Taliban-linked accounts to remain, including a spokesman for the group, as long as they don’t violate the platform’s terms of service, including inciting violence.
The Taliban has avoided breaking social media user rules over the years by using “strikingly sophisticated” techniques and becoming “an expert at wielding the West’s advanced communication technologies,” the Post reported Wednesday.
By using those techniques, followers of the repressive Taliban have been able to mount a case to the world that it’s ready to lead a modern Afghanistan, the Post reported. The Taliban has seized control of the Asian nation in the wake of the U.S. ending its 20-year military presence.
“The proliferation of the Taliban’s online infrastructure, regardless of whether it officially meets some companies’ criteria for content moderation, is significantly contributing to the empowerment of global violent extremists,” Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors online extremism, told the Post. “In short: Cutting off Taliban’s online media is definitely a good thing.”
Cloudflare didn’t immediately respond to a Fox News after-hours request for comment.
Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie and The Associated Press contributed to this report.