Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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Powered by Twitter? The Taliban’s Takeover of Afghanistan

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Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Data, and Conflict at Princeton University, June 2022

A new report based on the study of “the activity of 63 accounts claimed by the Taliban leadership, spokespersons, and avowed members from April 1 to September 16, 2021” with more than two million followers in September 2021, and of “the broader Taliban ecosystem” on Twitter, “which included more than 126,000 Twitter accounts that either retweeted Taliban content or posted content subsequently shared by the Taliban’s core network.” Main findings:

  • “The Taliban weaponized Twitter to dominate Afghanistan’s information environment. … The group was so effective at using Twitter to reach domestic audiences that it generated over four times
    more engagement on the platform than the content of 18 mainstream Afghan news organizations combined.”
  • “Twitter appears to have profited from the Taliban’s presence on its platform. Our research indicates that Twitter placed sponsored ads paid for by U.S. and Canadian companies — including Amazon, Disney, McDonald’s, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce — on 30% of the 63 Taliban-branded accounts in this report.”
  • “The Taliban deployed a consistent repertoire of influence strategies to take over Afghanistan[, i]n concert with their military operations […], all designed to convince Afghans and the international community that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable.”