US agencies scrub websites, social media accounts to protect Afghan contacts

Afghan armed men supporting the Afghan security forces against the Taliban stand with their weapons and Humvee vehicles at Parakh area in Bazarak, Panjshir province on August 19, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN / AFP)

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U.S. agencies continue to remove information from government websites and social media accounts that they believe could compromise contacts in Afghanistan.

The State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture are among the agencies understood to have so far removed photographs and information or curtailed access to webpages. Access to certain pages remained blocked as of Thursday afternoon.

It comes amid reports of Taliban fighters searching door-to-door for people who may have worked with foreign governments and amid concerns that online data may help the Taliban to identify Afghans who worked with Americans.

Details of the campaign to remove data were first reported by the Associated Press.

In a statement to FedScoop, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “The safety of our Afghan contacts is of utmost importance to us.”

“State Department policy is to only remove content in exceptional situations like this one. In doing so, Department personnel are following records retention requirements,” he added.

Guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration calls on agencies to follow best recordkeeping practices with social media accounts and to retain web content records in a portable format.

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Department of Agriculture (USDA), NARA, State Department, USAID
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