Twitter ‘verified’ check marks bought by Taliban appear to have been removed | Twitter

Twitter account verifications bought by the Taliban appear to have been removed, after many expressed outrage that the social media platform had given its blue check marks to Afghanistan’s hardline Islamist rulers.

Twitter previously only gave blue “verified” check marks to accounts that were considered “active, notable and authentic accounts of public interest”. But since Elon Musk acquired the platform last year, users can buy them from the Twitter Blue service for a fee – an option at least two officials of the Taliban government in Afghanistan had exercised.

The head of the Taliban’s department for “access to information”, Hedayatullah Hedayat, and its top media watchdog, Abdul Haq Hammad, each had blue ticks on their accounts as of Monday. The two men’s accounts have 187,000 and 170,000 followers each. Hedayat’s – which regularly publishes information about Taliban administration matters – had previously got its tick back after it was first removed in December.

The BBC reported on Monday that Hedayat and Hammad had successfully become Twitter Blue subscribers, allowing them to get verification marks that they and others in the Taliban had previously lacked.

One previous Taliban official praised Musk for the verifications and for “making Twitter great again”, according to the BBC report. But the report sparked outrage among many users who oppose the Taliban’s long record of human rights violations and its ties with violent terrorist organizations.

“Twitter Blue: Endorsed by the Taliban (laughing out loud),” wrote one user.

By Tuesday, the accounts of Hedayat and Hammad no longer carried the blue check marks. It was not clear whether Twitter or the users themselves removed the verifications.

Neither Twitter nor Musk, who uses the service prolifically, has so far responded publicly on the situation.

According to Twitter Blue, users who subscribe to the service at $8 monthly – $11 for those using the platform’s app on Apple devices – are prioritized in searches, mentions and replies. Twitter says it uses the service both as a revenue stream and to combat spam and bot accounts.

The Taliban have long used Twitter to spread their messaging but had never carried a verification tick mark until Twitter Blue.

Twitter’s current policies give gold check marks to businesses and grey ones to government officials and other notable authorities.

The Taliban took over the Twitter accounts of the preceding government after they retook power in Afghanistan in August 2021, two decades after their initial overthrow by a US-led military coalition.

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