Google locks down Afghan government email accounts as Taliban seek revenge
Google has temporarily locked some Afghan government email accounts in an apparent attempt to prevent the Taliban from tracking down the identities of former officials who worked with the recently collapsed US-backed administration.
“In consultation with experts, we are continuously assessing the situation in Afghanistan. We are taking temporary steps to secure affected accounts as information continues to come in,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement obtained by The Post.
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It was not immediately clear how many accounts were affected by the tech giant’s action, which was first reported by Reuters.
The rapid fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban last month has raised fears that Islamic fundamentalists could use access to nearly two decades of official records to identify and exact revenge on those who worked with and for them. authorities in Kabul, as well as other Western-backed institutions.
A former Afghan government employee told Reuters he was instructed by the Taliban to keep data held on servers belonging to the ministry he worked for.
“If I do, they will have access to official data and communications from the former leadership of the ministry,” said the man, who added that he had not complied and was now in hiding.
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According to Reuters, about two dozen Afghan government departments have used Google to handle official email correspondence, including the finance and industry ministries, as well as the presidential protocol office. Other agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the presidential office itself, have used Microsoft’s email software, according to the report.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a question from The Post about what steps, if any, the company was taking to keep this data out of the hands of the Taliban.
Days after the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, Google-owned YouTube said it would “close” any account it believes to be run by the extremist group. By contrast, Twitter said it would allow Taliban accounts to remain on the service while “proactively” enforcing its rules against “the glorification of violence, platform manipulation and spam.”
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Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported on Friday that Western Union – which halted service after militants entered Kabul – will resume transfers, which could help Afghans receive money from relatives living in the stranger. Most of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves, however, are held offshore and frozen while Western nations ponder how to engage with the Taliban, putting pressure on the local currency.
There was no immediate comment from Western Union to the AP on the resumption of service.
The Taliban have sought to show a moderate face to the watching world as they consolidate control of Afghanistan, but their conciliatory statements were belied by reports this week that members of the group were carrying out “executions of house to house” in Kabul and elsewhere in the countryside.
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Last month, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned of “summary executions” and harsh restrictions on women in Taliban-held areas, while the family of a Afghan folk singer reported that their loved one was executed by the Taliban days after he said “music is forbidden in Islam.”