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Facebook unveils tools to protect Afghan people who fear becoming Taliban targets

The company is helping people in Afghanistan lock down their social media profiles.

Facebook's new user controls are designed to help Afghans in need.
Jaap Arriens/Getty Images

As many Afghans hurry to hide their social media profiles out of fear the profiles will make them targets for Taliban violence, Facebook is launching new tools to help them delete their digital footprints. The move comes just days after the Taliban reclaimed Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Sunday, and announced they'd be taking power in the country for the first time in 20 years.

Facebook's new set of tools include a one-click button that lets people lock their accounts and also prevents other people who aren't already friends with them from downloading their profile pictures or seeing their posts. On Instagram, pop-up alerts will appear to people in Afghanistan outlining specific steps to help them secure their accounts. The ability to view and search someone's friends list has also been temporarily restricted in Afghanistan to prevent people from being targeted.

The creation of many of the new tools was informed by feedback from activists, journalists and civil society groups, Facebook's head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a Twitter thread outlining the changes. He also recommended to people outside of Afghanistan that if they have friends within the country, they should consider tightening their own visibility settings too.

"We're working closely with our counterparts in industry, civil society and government to provide whatever support we can to help protect people," said Gleicher. "And we've stood up a special operations center to respond to new threats as they emerge. We know that no single step is enough by itself in crises like this, but we're watching closely as the situation develops and will take steps to help protect people in real time."