‘Verified’ Twitter ticks bought by Taliban appear to have been removed – The Guardian

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 ticks to Afghanistan’s hardline Islamist rulers.

Twitter previously only gave blue “verified” ticks to accounts that were considered “active, notable, and authentic public interest accounts.” But since Elon Musk acquired the platform last year, users have been able to purchase it for a fee from the Twitter Blue service — an option exercised by at least two Taliban government officials in Afghanistan.

The head of the Taliban’s “Access to Information” department, Hedayatullah Hedayat, and its chief media watchdog, Abdul Haq Hammad, each had blue ticks on their accounts Monday. The two male accounts have 187,000 and 170,000 followers, respectively. Hedayat’s – which regularly publishes information on Taliban administration affairs – had previously had its tick back, having first been removed in December.

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

A former Taliban official praised Musk for the reviews and for “making Twitter great again,” according to the BBC report. But the report sparked outrage from many users, who oppose the Taliban’s long history of human rights abuses and its links to violent terrorist organizations.

“Twitter Blue: Backed by the Taliban (loud laughter)” wrote one user.

As of Tuesday, Hedayat and Hammad’s accounts no longer had blue ticks. It was unclear whether Twitter or the users themselves removed the verifications.

Neither Twitter nor Musk, who uses the service a lot, have so far commented publicly on the situation.

According to Twitter Blue, users who subscribe to the service for $8 a month — $11 for those using the platform’s app on Apple devices — will be 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 messages but never had a verification tick until Twitter Blue.

Twitter’s current policies give gold ticks to corporations and gray ticks to government officials and other notable authorities.

The Taliban took over the previous government’s Twitter accounts after regaining power in Afghanistan in August 2021, two decades after their initial overthrow by a US-led military coalition.