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Taliban Shuts Down “Queer.AF” Domain, Breaks Gay Mastodon Server

Jack Hadfield

The Taliban government of Afghanistan has shut down the URL queer.af, effectively destroying the “eclectic queer” microblogging server that ran on it.

Earlier this week, the Taliban’s Ministry of Communications and IT sent an email to the server’s administrator, Erin Shepherd, reading: “queer.af has been suspended in the registry and will no longer be included in zone file generation. This means that any services connected with this domain, such as websites or email addresses will cease working shortly.”

The server operated on the Mastodon network. Part of the “fediverse,” a system of various websites that integrate with each other, Mastodon serves as one of the options for “microblogging,” of which X, formerly Twitter, is the most notable example. Servers on the Mastodon network have their own admins, rules and regulations. Gab, the free speech-oriented network, was part of the Mastodon instance for a period of time.

The queer.af server identified itself as “an eclectic queer space… for those who are queer or queer-adjacent who would like a more pleasant social media experience.” The domain, which uses Afghanistan’s Top Level Domain (TLD) of .af, was initially purchased by a friend of Shepherd’s in April 2018, and became the Mastodon server, also known as an instance, in July of that year.

“It was a bit of an experiment – to see what kind of community one could create with exclusively ‘friend of a friend’ invites – it turned out it was a very nice one!,” Shepherd told 404 Media’s Jason Koebler.

In a post last month, Shepherd confirmed that Afghanistan’s domain registry department, which had been “in a state of limbo” since the Taliban take over of the country in 2021, was operating again. Given that the fees from renewing the domain would go to the Taliban, the site announced their shut down, set for when the domain expired in April.

However, the Taliban email came out of the blue for Shepherd.

“I assumed at the time that the domain would probably last until its expiration date; I wasn’t expecting it to be terminated early,” Shepherd said. According to them, other domains registered under the .af [domain], and hosted by domain registrar Gandi, received the same message, suggesting a potential purge of websites by the Taliban.

“We were very much aware that the .af [domain] belonged to Afghanistan and that there were potential upsets in the future,” Shepherd added.

“In some strange ways, that made it more appealing – we knew that there were ways that this community experiment could end that were outside of our control, and not just due to us burning out or similar.”

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