The Taliban's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid may hate the U.S., but he apparently loves American technology. He tweets several times a day to keep his nearly 6,000 followers updated.
On Friday, however, Mujahid posted several Tweets, apparently accidentally turning the social network's geolocation tracking on. His position came as a surprise to many: Instead of posting from Afghanistan, he seemed to be in Sindh, a Pakistani region in the southeast of the country.
د نیکمرغه لوي اختر د رارسیدو په مناسبت دعالیقدر امیرالمومنین دمبارکۍ پیغام(ږغیز):https://t.co/hz94Eai6k3
— zabihullahmujahid (@zabihmujahid) October 3, 2014
Shortly afterwards, users made the gaffe public.
Mujahid was quick to reject the allegations, calling them an "enemy plot." Theoretically, Mujahid could also have used technology which hides a user's real location and places him in other countries. This, however, would lead to new questions: Why would someone who puts so much effort into hiding deliberately decide to turn on Twitter's location tracking?
According to Twitter, location services are usually turned "off by default and [one] will need to opt-in to use it." Twitter furthermore urges its users to be careful about sharing their locations. "There may be some updates where you want to keep your location private," the company recommends in its FAQs. Afghan Taliban fighters have long been suspected of hiding in Pakistan, but the militants themselves were always quick to renounce such claims.
The Pakistani military launched an operation against the Taliban in the north Waziristan region in June, an area close to the Afghan border. Sindh, however, is closer to India than to Afghanistan.
In August, Mujahid had announced that he was now able to communicate via Viber, WhatsApp and WeChat. The embrace of social media sites is not unique to the Taliban: Despite Twitter's decision to crack down on profiles of Islamic State fighters, foreign jihadists frequently use the site to spread propaganda — usually without identifying their location. "I'm pretty sure this is a one-off with regards to the Middle East," Eliot Higgins, a blogger who frequently analyzes photos and videos posted from conflict zones, told WorldViews.