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Taliban arrest Afghan professor after social media criticism

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Taliban arrest Afghan professor after social media criticism


Kabul University law professor Faizullah Jalal (pictured with his wife Massouda during a trip to Paris in 2004) has long had a reputation as a critic of Afghanistan’s leaders – Copyright AFP/File JACK GUEZ

A prominent Afghan university professor who openly criticised the Taliban’s hardline regime has been arrested in Kabul, a spokesman for the government said.

Professor Faizullah Jalal has made several appearances on television talk shows since the previous US-backed government was ousted in August, blaming the Taliban for the worsening financial crisis and criticising them for ruling by force.

Since returning to power, the Taliban have cracked down on dissent, forcefully dispersing women’s rights protests and briefly detaining several Afghan journalists.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that Jalal had been detained Saturday over statements he made on social media in which he was “trying to instigate people against the system and was playing with the dignity of the people”.

“He has been arrested so that others don’t make similar senseless comments in the name of being a professor or scholar that harm the dignity of others,” he added.

Mujahid shared screenshots of tweets he claimed had been posted by Jalal, which said the Taliban intelligence chief was a stooge of Pakistan, and that the new government considers Afghans as “donkeys”.

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In one television appearance, Jalal called Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem — who was also participating — a “calf”, a grave insult in Afghanistan.

Clips of his passionate criticism went viral on social media, sparking concern he risked Taliban retribution.

Jalal’s wife Massouda, who once stood as Afghanistan’s first woman candidate for the presidency, posted on Facebook that her husband had been arrested by Taliban forces and detained in an unknown location.

“Dr. Jalal has fought and spoken out for justice and the national interest in all his activities pertaining to human rights,” she said.

A long-time professor of law and political science at Kabul University, Jalal has long had a reputation as a critic of Afghanistan’s leaders.

On Twitter, rights group Amnesty International condemned the arrest of the lecturer “for exercising his freedom of expression and criticising the Taliban”, calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

The Taliban have formed an all-male cabinet made up entirely of members of the group, and almost exclusively of ethnic Pashtuns.

They have further restricted women’s rights to work and study, triggering widespread international condemnation.

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Twitter Moves to Next Stage of Testing for its New ‘Status’ Indicators

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Twitter Moves to Next Stage of Testing for its New ‘Status’ Indicators

Do you struggle to provide adequate context within the 240 characters allowed for tweets?

If so, then you’re in luck, as Twitter’s developing a range of tweet status indicators, which will eventually provide a simple way to add another element to your tweeted message, which could help to better communicate meaning and intent.

Or not. As shared by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, this is the current listing of Twitter status options in testing:

Pretty unique combination of possible status alerts here – a mix of trending sayings and popular activities. Users won’t be able to create their own status, you’d have to use one of these presets – which is a little restrictive, but it could be handy? Maybe.

Twitter’s been testing out its Status indicators for a while, with the original list of status options, which Wong also tweeted back in July, including a few that have been culled as part of this expansion.

Twitter Status

As you can see, when you add a Status, it will be displayed above your tweet, and below your username, adding immediate context to your message.

Status indicators would also be searchable, with users able to tap on a status indicator, which will take you through to a listing of all the tweets that have applied the same activity.

Twitter Status

Really, Twitter’s actually been testing Status markers out since 2018, when it previewed this format for the option.

Twitter Status indicator

The idea, at that stage, seemed to be to help people list events that they were attending, which users often do already by adding the event hashtag to their username. A status indicator would make this easier, while also helping people connect around said event – but since then, Twitter’s revised its approach to the markers, making them more of a topical sorting option to help users find relevant activity and engagement opportunities.

Which, I guess, they could facilitate.

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Maybe, by tapping on ‘Picture of the Day’ that could become another engagement and discovery element, or by tapping ‘Hot Take’ you could find more tweets to interact with, and add your own opinion.

It could be a handy way to sort tweets by topic, which could be beneficial. Maybe, though I’m not sure that it’s going to have much of an impact on overall tweet engagement.

Twitter’s been working to add in more content sorting and discovery tools over the past couple of years, including Communities, Circles for private chats, and topics in the Audio tab. Twitter also added and the capacity to follow Topic streams back in 2019, which it had hoped would give users more ways into Twitter discussions, and to find interactions more relevant to their interests.

For more regular users, those probably aren’t particularly useful – but for new users coming in, they could be important, as Twitter isn’t overly intuitive for people when first starting out. This has been an issue for the platform since forever, and these types of additional discovery measures could help to address this. 

If Twitter can integrate them in an effective, engaging way.

The problem on this front is that Twitter’s topics algorithms are still fairly basic, with the tweets shown to users within topic streams often being off-topic, even offensive, because they’re being displayed based on basic keyword mentions and total engagement with each tweet, not on relevance.

Which is why the Spaces/Audio tab isn’t attuned to your interests, based on usage, why the ‘Who to Follow’ display is never locked into users you might be interested in. It’s all too basic, and in this sense, Twitter has fallen behind other platforms on algorithmic sorting and alignment.

Which is why it’s now seeking more manual intervention, by letting users add status markers to categorize discussion.

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Which seems like a backwards step, given that other platforms are becoming increasingly good at showing you more content based on your interests, without you needing to do anything other than use each app.

But maybe, it’ll become a thing, and provide another way for Twitter to boost engagement.

There’s no official release plan in place for Twitter’s status updates as yet, but they’re likely coming very soon.   



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