Facebook hides friends lists on accounts in Afghanistan as a safety measure

The head of security policy at Facebook stated that the company has put in place security measures to protect users in Afghanistan. These include hiding friend lists and adding an option to quickly lock down accounts. Nathaniel Gleicher stated in a Twitter thread that Facebook had made these changes after receiving feedback from journalists, activists, and civil society organizations.
The Taliban have retaken control of Afghanistan over the last week and are now able to use social media to spread their messages, despite being blocked by YouTube or Facebook. NBC News reported that Afghans fearful of the Taliban had deleted photos from their phones and social media accounts that could have a connection with Western countries, the ex-Afghan government or the Afghan military.

Afghans will now be able to access a simple tool to lock their Facebook accounts. Gleicher explained that when a profile is locked, anyone who isn't their friend can't download, share or view their profile photo, or see posts on the timeline. He also explained that users can no longer view or search Friends lists in Afghanistan on Facebook. This is to prevent people being targeted.

4/ We have created a tool that allows people in Afghanistan to lock their accounts with a single click. People who are not their friends cannot download, share or view their profile photo or see posts in their timeline if their profile is locked. pic.twitter.com/pUANh5uBgn Nathaniel Gleicher (@ngleicher) August 19, 2021

Gleicher stated that Facebook is now adding pop-up alerts to Afghanistan on Instagram. These alerts include steps to protect accounts. Gleicher also advised people living in Afghanistan with their family and friends to increase their visibility settings.

Gleicher said that the company has created a special operations centre to deal with new threats as they arise. We will do everything possible to protect people as soon as possible.