Taliban app Alemarah pulled from Google Play store days after launching

Google has removed an app linked to the Taliban, called Pashto Afghan News – Alemarah, days after it went live.

Taliban app Alemarah pulled from Google Play store days after launching

The Android app launched on 1 April and was spotted on the same day by US-based organisation, Site Intel Group, which monitors jihadist social media. A Taliban spokesman subsequently told Bloomberg that the app, which provided access to the Taliban’s Pashto website, was “part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience”.

Roughly two days after going live, the app disappeared from the Google Play store. The Taliban blamed “technical issues”, but the reality is Google pulled it for violating its terms, which prohibit hate speech, violence and illegal activities. 

That Alemarah was able to appear at all on Google’s online shop raises questions about the vetting process for apps. In March 2015, Google announced it was using algorithms alongside human reviewers to analyse apps, but apps would still need to pass through a human team before publication. It isn’t currently clear how the Taliban’s app was able to get past this barrier.

Islamic State is known for its use of digital platforms and social media to spread propaganda and drive recruitment, and the app looks to be an attempt by the Taliban to tap into similar techniques. The extremist group already has a website, run in several languages, a number of Twitter accounts, and a channel in the encrypted service Telegram.  

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