In Brief

Taliban app removed from Google Play store

Pashto Afghan News taken down after 48 hours, but questions remain over internet giant's vetting processes

An Android app developed by the Taliban has been removed from Google's Play store two days after launching into the public domain.

Pashto Afghan News included official statements and video content from the hardline Islamist group and allowed users to access the organisation's Pashto language website.

According to The Guardian, the app was part of "a growing digital campaign by the Taliban to grow its audience", with the group taking cues from the online presence of Islamic State.

As well as its website, which is updated in five different languages, including English, the group maintains a "constant" presence on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, despite efforts to remove its pages and accounts.

The Taliban blamed "technical issues" for the app's disappearance, the BBC says, but the broadcaster adds it was actually removed because it violated Google policy, which prohibits hate speech.

The fact the app was published on the Google Play store raises awkward questions for the internet giant.

In the past, Google has left its app store fairly open, only intervening and removing content if it was flagged as dangerous. But last month, the company announced a new series of moderation checks would be put in place to catch offenders before an app is published. How Pashto Afghan News made it through the safety net is unclear.

According to Tech Crunch, the episode points to serious holes in the system and is "a high-profile example of a failure in Google's app review process".

The site says Google is still "relatively new to the app review process" and that it still relies heavily on a community of users to flag up malicious content, despite screening more than 1000 apps a day.

Google declined to comment to Tech Crunch on the app's removal.

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