Taliban confront fake news and social media in propaganda war

 Fighting “fake” news, wrestling with social media, and deploying an intern army — the Taliban’s sprawling propaganda machine embraces modernity even as the group vows to enforce Islamist controls on journalists if it returns to power.

Notorious for banning TV and radio under its iron-fisted 1996-2001 regime, the militants have proven surprisingly deft at adapting to the ever-changing nature of modern media.

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The Taliban’s official spokesman now tweets real-time updates about battlefield operations and its media arm stays in direct contact with journalists on a range of messaging apps.

“Media is considered one side of the struggle,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP via Whatsapp.

“We are not against modern technology,” a senior Taliban source with links to the insurgents’ media wing told AFP.

“This is the need of the hour and using it is not against Islamic shariah.”

But the source admits his team struggles at times to control their own narrative.

High-profile interviews have taken place without the media wing’s knowledge, sparking hurried denials along with confusion over the identity of the interviewee and whether he can really claim to speak for the Taliban.

Unverified leaks to media outlets from alleged Taliban sources are frequent.

Fake or unauthorised accounts sprout often on social media, while their official Facebook pages and Twitter handles are regularly banned only to be restarted under another name.

Even the official spokesman, Mujahid, is widely believed to be not one man but a moniker used by the information wing to issue statements.

The operation can be dizzying, admits the Taliban source.

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