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Taliban app removed from Google Play Store following investigation by The Foreign Desk

Story updated: See below. An app featuring news from outlawed terror group The Afghan Taliban is available for download on The Google Play Store, The Foreign Desk has discovered. It offers users access to the latest news, official statements, propaganda videos and songs from the authorized website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The app is labeled with an “Everyone 10+” content rating, one that Google categorizes as “generally suitable for ages 10 and up, and could contain "fantasy or mild violence.” It appears to have been uploaded in the past day, and although there are currently no statistics on downloads, the Google Play page already boasts several dozen positive reviews. The Foreign Desk has reached out to Google for comment. afghan3A twitter account purportedly belonging to the media branch of the Islamic Emirate also tweeted a link to the Play Store download. A recent post on the app boasts an American hummer destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan's Paktia province with causalities inflicted on the “Crusaders.” The Foreign Desk cannot independently verify the exact incident. While the production and release of apps by terror groups represent nothing new, Google has in the past taken down such apps, removing an ISIS-affiliated app in 2014, and in 2012, both Google and Apple removed a Hezbollah app that allowed for the streaming of the terror group’s Al Manar TV channel to app users. In response to the crackdowns, ISIS has improvised its approach with an android app packaged in an APK file that can be emailed or shared via a direct communication platform such as a messaging app but lacks the mainstream distribution offered by an app store such as Google Play. Tech companies have come under increasing pressure to thwart jihadi influence and recruitment tactics online. Twitter and Facebook have removed thousands of accounts and pages belonging to ISIS militants while YouTube continues to delete terror videos the groups post online. Despite fighting a decade-long war, the Taliban has seen a resurgence in recent months, and in February the U.S. ordered hundreds of American troops back to southern Afghanistan. Update: Following The Foreign Desk's investigation Google Play took down the app Saturday.
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