- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2016

Google removed a mobile app from its Play store over the weekend after it was revealed to be serving as a mouthpiece for the Taliban.

The Android app, “Pashto Afghan News — alemarah,” was discovered on Friday by the SITE Intel Group, a U.S.-based organization that monitors online jihadists.

Before being shuttered soon after, the app reportedly allowed the Taliban to amplify statements and other official propaganda by literally putting it into the hands of potentially millions of Android users. 

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told Bloomberg on Sunday that the app “is part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience.”

Pashto is a language spoken primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Alemarah is a propaganda network employed by the Taliban.

“That the app was launched in Pashto indicates that the local Pashtun population is the main audience, and it could thus be perceived as an attempt to bolster its support in eastern Afghanistan where IS — especially in Nangarhar and Paktika — is pushing for control,” Tore Hamming, a researcher of militant Islamism at the European University Institute, told The Guardian on Sunday, using an abbreviation for the Islamic State terror group.

“The app will help Taliban to further psychologically weaken Afghanistan by their propaganda reports,” Kabul-based security analyst Jawid Kohistani told Bloomberg.

By Monday, however, the app had been purged from Google Play, the tech titan’s online store that hosts more than a million and a half mobile apps that can be installed on smartphones and tablets running the company’s Android operating system.

“While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies,” Google told The Guardian.

The Telegraph said the Taliban’s app ran afoul of Google’s policy that prohibits apps that advocate against individuals based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“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.”

More than 1 billion smartphones running Android were shipped during 2014.

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