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Taliban bans 23 million websites and here’s what else

After banning more than 23 million websites in Afghanistan, the Taliban decided to ban the social media app TikTok and a popular shooting game called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), as well.

According to Arab News, a Taliban spokesman previously said the app and game – both developed in China – must go to “prevent the younger generation from being misled.” TikTok is scheduled to go dark within a month from the September announcement, and PUBG within three months.

Arab News quotes an Afghan journalist saying the TikTok ban is aimed at curbing dissent against the Islamist group, which retook the country after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021.

“People (on TikTok) criticize the actions of the Taliban’s government in live videos and short clips,” journalist Abdulhaq Omeri said. “Through banning TikTok, the Taliban want to stop them.”

However, the journalist Omeri noted that internet service bans in other countries have been easily subverted using virtual private networks.

India has already banned the same two apps targeted by the Taliban, reportedly for cybersecurity reasons. The apps are developed by Chinese companies, and the country reported to monitor users of its companies’ apps.

Some U.S. politicians, including former President Donald Trump while in office, have called for an American TikTok ban on similar grounds.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, one of the most popular “battle royale” games, once drew as many as 100,000 Afghans, causing a “moral panic,” according to the Economist. 

The Afghan religious ministry raised concerns the game could foster violent mindsets in the country, where more than 63 percent of people are younger than 25.

In August, a Taliban official claimed the government blocked 23.4 million “immoral” websites, while noting that “they are changing their pages every time,” according to Afghan outlet TOLOnews.

“When you block one website, another one will be active,” acting communications minister Najibullah Haqqani said.

Internet access has rapidly spread in recent years to reach about 10 million people in the country of about 40 million, according to Afghan data reported by Arab News.