Most of the world never heard of the Alemarah app for Android phones until Google moved against it over the weekend. After being reported by SITE Intel group (an organization that tracks the online activities of violent Islamist groups) on Friday, Google promptly removed the app from Play store the next day.
The Alemarah app was created by the Taliban. The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalists group based mostly in Afghanistan. Largely accused of masterminding the September 2001 terrorists attacks that brought down both towers of the world Trade Center in New York, the Taliban until recently were the world’s biggest terrorist organization. These days, that title is held by the Islamic State, operating out if Syria and Iraq.
Coming from a fundamentalist group, it stands to reason the Alemarah app was created for propaganda mostly. And it was a clear indication the shadowy group is now getting more sophisticated in the use of Internet and associated technologies to send out its message to the wider world. The app written in Pashto, the local language of the Taliban, had contents like official statements and videos from the group.
And why was the Talamarah taken down? Google did not clearly state why the app was removed, though a spokesperson for Google told The Next Web that, “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies.” Google also told Quartz that, “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.”
It is worth reading the Google app store policy to understand how or why Google came down on the Alemarah app. On the section dealing with violence it states that,
“We don’t allow apps that depict or facilitate gratuitous violence or other dangerous activities.
- Graphic depictions or descriptions of realistic violence or violent threats to any person or animal.
- Terrorist groups documenting their attacks.
- Instructions for engaging in violent activities, including bomb- or weapon-making.
- Instructions on how to commit suicide.”
While the section dealing with hate speech is short and straight to the point,
“We don’t allow apps that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
You can see why an app from a terrorist organization can easily be termed inappropriate by Google going by their policies. The simple inference is this, since the Alemarah app is from the Taliban, and since the Taliban is known for despicable acts, any app from it would clearly violate Google terms and policies on the app store. Even if at this point, it is not clear if the Alemarah ap actually had content that went against those policies, it is enough that the Alemarah app was linked to the Taliban to have it banned.
But speaking to Bloomberg, Zubihullah Mujahed, the spokesman of the Taliban, said the app would make a come back to Google Play Store later after some technical hitches have being dealt with. I think it is unlikely Play store would ever see the Alemarah app again.
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