How do we keep social networks accessible to Afghans without putting them at risk? For Facebook and Clubhouse the answer to this question consists in taking action. These social networks have decided to roll out a series of measures to protect their users in the middle of a political and humanitarian crisis. So what are the measures?
In Afghanistan, Facebook users will be able to use several measures to ensure their anonymity on the platform. As of now, Afghans can block their account, preventing users who are not on their friends list from viewing their posts and photos. While this option must be enabled by the user, Facebook decided to take the lead in making it impossible to search for friends on accounts in Afghanistan "to everything we can to help keep people safe," Nathaniel Gleicher explained. In a long thread on his Twitter account, the head of security policy at Facebook described all the new measures related to current events in the Middle East and developed based on feedback from "activists, journalists and civil society groups."
While users will be able to adjust their settings on Facebook, on Instagram Afghans have already been able to discover pop-up alerts offering them ways to better protect their accounts, Nathaniel Gleicher said.
Facebook isn't the only social network to have thought about its users in the country. Clubhouse, the app that has revived interest in online audio, has also thought about protecting its users' data. The social network revealed that it has removed the photo and bio of accounts in Afghanistan that appear to have been inactive for a while, without specifying the length of inactivity. In addition to this preventive measure, Clubhouse wanted to make it more difficult to find these accounts without the users concerned necessarily losing subscribers.
However, all these changes are reversible at the request of the user, said Clubhouse, which reminded users that the use of pseudonyms is allowed on its platform.
The company said it had been working with experts in free speech and extreme violence to implement these measures. Efforts that could be of help to many Afghans seeking to remove their history in order to escape the Taliban.
Since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the world has been concerned about the fate of Afghans left behind. With social networks , the danger is even greater for the population as the Taliban freely uses various platforms for its own communication. Facebook has banned groups and accounts with a link to the extremist organization, whereas Twitter has not but says it is closely monitoring such accounts.