On Friday, reports emerged that the Afghan Taliban had released a propaganda app through the Google Play Store. A short time later, however, the app appears to have disappeared, although Google is playing coy on the reason for its removal.
The Pashto-language app, called Alemarah, was “part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told Bloomberg upon its release. It reportedly included official statements and videos from the group.
However, when Saturday rolled around, the app was gone, and Mujahed told Bloomberg it was suffering from “technical issues.”
Google, on the other hand, remained mum about the removal. “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies,” a spokesperson told The Next Web. Similarly, another spokesperson told Quartz, “Our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers. That’s why we remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies.”
According to the app store’s policies, content that involves “terrorist groups documenting their attacks” is restricted, as are “apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic event.” While it’s unclear whether the Taliban’s app violated any of these terms, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, since, you know, it was a propaganda app designed to increase the terrorist group’s audience, after all.
Some think that the app may have been part of the Taliban’s efforts to compete with ISIS, which has a substantial digital footprint. However, as Gizmodo previously reported, some of ISIS’s purported attempts at expanding its digital operations were not quite as legitimate as they’ve been made out to be. (Google also recently began to show anti-ISIS ads.)
While the swift removal suggests Google has no plans to allow terrorist propaganda in its app store, the Taliban apparently has other ideas; Zabihullah Mujahed told Bloomberg that the app should be back up soon.