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Taliban propaganda app removed from Google Play store

Android app reportedly violated Google's policy on hate speech

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

An Android app developed by the Taliban has been removed from the Google Play store for promoting hate speech, the BBC reports. The Pashto-language app, called Alemarah, contained official statements, videos, and other content from the Islamist group, which has been waging war in Afghanistan since being ousted from power in 2001. In an interview with Bloomberg, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed described it as "part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience." The SITE Intel Group, a US-based organization that monitors jihadist social media, reported that the app was on the Google Play Store on Friday.

Alemarah disappeared from the store on Saturday, with Mujahed telling Bloomberg that it was taken down to fix "technical issues," but the BBC reported on Monday that the app was actually removed by Google. Google did not comment on the app, but the BBC said it was removed for violating the company's policy on hate speech.

The Taliban embraces technology

"Our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers," Google said in a statement to the BBC. "That's why we remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies."

The Taliban has sought to expand its propaganda operations on social media and other web platforms, in an effort to reach wider audiences. The group's website has been translated in to five languages, including English and Arabic, and it regularly publishes news on Twitter and Facebook. That marks something of a shift for the Taliban, which long shunned modern technology during its rule in Afghanistan.

Social media has become an important tool for ISIS and other jihadist groups seeking to recruit people to their cause. Following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, CA last year, officials in Europe and the US called on Facebook, Twitter, and other web companies to intensify efforts to combat extremist propaganda with counter-messaging.