Three examples of widely-shared misinformation about Afghanistan
Using OSINT techniques, Afghan Witness has verified multiple examples of inaccurate content in recent months.
16 Nov 2021
Over the past three months, social media has played a significant role in spreading inaccurate
information about events in Afghanistan.
While most of the claims could have been easily identified as false or inaccurate from basic research, this has not stopped several high-profile political and media figures sharing the content.
While it is difficult to distinguish misinformation from disinformation - the latter is deliberately deceptive, the former isn’t always - the majority of shares and engagement is likely to be from people who are unaware the information is incorrect, rather than those intending to deliberately deceive. The motive of the original posters or claimants on the other hand, is harder to assess.
Afghan Witness (AW) has been monitoring Afghanistan’s social media landscape since the Taliban takeover in August.
The following are some of the most interesting examples of inaccurate content that has spread since... 1. Claimed Pakistani fighter jet in Panjshir Valley, geolocated to Wales
On 6 September, a widely-shared video claimed to show a Pakistani fighter jet manoeuvring
in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, as the Taliban were taking over the area.
The footage fed claims that Pakistan was supporting the Taliban in their offensive against the National Resistance Front (NRF) which were holed up in the valley.
However, AW was able to geolocate the footage to ‘Mach Loop’ in Wales, a well known training area for the RAF.
This example is relatively mild in comparison to others AW have analysed in recent months...
2. Video of claimed Taliban kidnappings and killings actually from a movie
On 10 September, tweets from multiple accounts went viral with a video apparently depicting the Taliban kidnapping and killing civilians.
After investigation by AW, it was revealed that the video was a short clip from a movie about the Dasht-i-Leili massacre in December 2001, when 250-2000 Taliban prisoners were shot/suffocated in metal containers while being transferred from Kunduz to Sheberghan.
3. Recycled footage of publicly displayed bodies
On 8 November, new footage surfaced (warning; graphic) claiming to show three men being hanged in Lashkargah, Helmand. The story was shared by renowned journalists and news outlets, alongside speculation as to why the individuals were hanged, ranging from suggestions they were civil activists to rapists.
After investigation by AW, the footage turned out to be from an incident in Herat on 25th
September, when the Taliban publicly displayed three men killed in the city. The incident was
covered by international media. The footage posted on the 8 November was new and from
an alternative angle, making it easier to pass off or misinterpret as a separate event.
Comparing the 'new' footage with verified footage of 25 September in Herat, we can identify
the same trucks, nasheed and a Taliban member on the third truck, enabling us to confirm it
was footage of the same event, and not from Lashkargah.
Images claiming to be Lashkargah, Helmand:
Images from 25 September, Herat:
An image of the incident posted by BBC Persia depicts the same truck, further confirming the ‘new’ footage was from 25 September in Herat.
An official statement by Ziaulhaq Jalali, a Taliban district police chief in Herat, on the 25 September incident said the Taliban had saved a father and son who had been abducted by four kidnappers. He claimed the four alleged kidnappers were killed in a gunfight and their bodies had been taken to public squares around Herat to be displayed. This account of the incident could not be verified through OSINT.
As part of our work on misinformation, AW will continue to monitor social media activity, and when possible, to verify reports of incidents concerning Afghanistan.