Afghanistan’s shocking regime turnover is still sending shockwaves throughout the world, with many people wondering what will come of the country now that it’s under the control of a group that most perceive to be a fringe extremist collective.
The Taliban has an appallingly poor track record when it comes to human rights, but they aren’t marching out with their previous stances at the top of the agenda. So far, the internet itself is not in direct jeopardy.
Afghanistan’s Internet Has Been Surprisingly Free
Many countries in regions of the world where religion and law are regarded as nearly equal in importance impose strict censorship laws. Afghanistan, possibly due to Western military influence, afforded its citizens better access to the open and uncensored internet than many of its neighboring countries. It isn’t perfect. It’s still censored. But it isn’t censored into oblivion.
The recent regime change has the population wondering if the Taliban will move to restrict access to information. The Taliban’s history of rigid ideals doesn’t bode well with the population of the country, who has come to expect and appreciate certain freedoms they were afforded after political intervention.
Citizens of Afghanistan Scramble to Cover Their Tracks
Fearing potential retaliation from the Taliban, many Afghanistan internet users began frantically voluntarily scrubbing or deleting their online presences. This was a smart smove. The Taliban’s intentions were and remain to be unclear. The population grew rapidly concerned that the Taliban would use social media platforms to locate democracy advocates, potentially harming or jailing them for anti-Taliban sentiments.
The Taliban Met with Internet Regulators
In an announcement that surprised many citizens of Afghanistan, the Taliban announced that they do not currently have any intentions of cutting off internet access within the country. Time will tell how well these claims hold up.
ATRA, the Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority, to understand how the internet is regulated and censored throughout the country. So far, it seems as though the Taliban’s questions have been pointed in the direction of collecting and processing information, rather than restricting access to it.
The theory has been posed that the Taliban may begin using ATRA to monitor and censor detractors online. They may also collect data on citizens seeking to travel out of the country or obtain visas for work related or permanent relocation.
At the moment, the Taliban isn’t acting. They’ve not yet decided a strategy for controlling the internet or restricting freedoms. This doesn’t mean that they won’t.
Citizens Should Have a Backup Plan
The Taliban currently lacks funding and support from any major governments. They are currently severely limited in their ability to implement surveillance technology. If they do have designs relating to an intranet, an internet shutoff, or a system of mass censorship, they aren’t yet in a position to implement that system.
Citizens of Afghanistan can preemptively begin using TorGuard’s stealth mode VPN to privately browse the internet without intervention or surveillance by the new regime. Those who fear backlash for communication critical of the Taliban can circumvent their grasp by navigating the internet with complete and total anonymity.