Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Why the Taliban Can’t Use Facebook

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Scott R. Anderson
Thursday, August 26, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

When the Taliban seized power following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan this month, major platforms like Facebook and Twitter faced a quandary. What should they do with accounts and content belonging to the fundamentalist insurgency that was suddenly running a country? Should they treat the Taliban as the Afghan government and let them post, or should they remove Taliban content under U.S. sanctions law?

If you’re coming at this from the tech sphere, you may have been seeing conversation in recent weeks about how this has raised new and difficult issues for platforms thrust into the center of geopolitics by questions of what to do about Taliban accounts. But, how new are these problems, really? On this week’s episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on our online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Scott R. Anderson, a senior editor at Lawfare and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, whom you might have heard on some other Lawfare podcasts about Afghanistan in recent weeks. They talked about the problems of recognition and sanctions law that platforms are now running into—and they debated whether or not the platforms are navigating uncharted territory, or whether they’re dealing with the same problems that other institutions, like banks, have long grappled with.

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Scott R. Anderson is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Fellow in the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He previously served as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and as the legal advisor for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

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