Google removed a Taliban-developed online application for Android smartphones from its Play Store. The app was made to increase the militant group’s visibility worldwide. U.S.-based SITE Intel Group, which monitors jihadist social media, reported the launch of the app on April 1.
Google removes the app from Play Store
“The Afghan Taliban developed an Android application to access its Pashto website, and listed it on the Google Play store,” reported SITE last week.
On Sunday, a Google spokeswoman confirmed that the app is no longer available on the Play Store. This app was part of the Taliban’s digital campaign to influence a bigger audience across the world. The Pashto language app included contents such as videos and official statements from the Taliban.
The app — code-named Alemarah — was designed to replicate the digital propaganda strategy of ISIS (the Islamic State) and was aimed at increasing the visibility of the extremist group online. Designing such an app reflects the extremist group’s motive to expand its digital operations and copy the more visible IS.
Jawid Kohistani, an independent Kabul-based security analyst said, “The app will help Taliban to further psychologically weaken Afghanistan by their propaganda reports.”
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, told Bloomberg by phone that he wasn’t aware of the Taliban app.
Ongoing war between social media and terrorist groups
The Taliban has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for over 14 years. It was ousted in 2001 with help from the U.S. The movement has an updated website which runs in five languages, including Arabic and English. Also daily updates on its insurgency are provided through Facebook and Twitter accounts. Apart from them, the extremist group runs a channel on the encrypted messaging service Telegram.
Many times the group’s website and Twitter accounts have been removed. Also social media platforms, including Google, have been censured for not doing more to prevent extremist groups such as the Islamic State and Taliban from using their sites to spread terrorism, raise funds and recruit more members.
As the accounts of extremist groups are targeted and removed, the Taliban app could have helped the terrorist group maintain a source of communication and ensure that recruitment efforts are proceeding effectively.