After blocking hashtag #Sikh for nearly three months, Instagram and Facebook finally unblocked the hashtag after admitting that they made a “mistake”.
Tribune India reported users learned about the blocked hashtag after attempting to post about the injustices faced in Operation Blue Star of 1984. According to Independent, users were unable to search or post anything if they used hashtag #Sikh. Instead, users read an error message that said, “Posts for this hashtag are temporarily hidden because of unusual activity that may not meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines.”
This issue was recently brought to widespread public attention after Sikh Press Association, a national news agency representing the Sikh community, publicly questioned Instagram and Facebook on June 3rd. Sikh Press Associate wrote in a tweet, “In the same week that #Neverforget1984 trends on Twitter, Instagram seemingly conspires to suppress the truth about the atrocities of the 1984 Sikh genocide by censoring the faith of 27 million people.”
Times of India dubbed Operation Bluestar as a “painful memory” to the Sikh community. The Operation was carried out by the Indian Army in June 1984 to wipe out militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a city in India. In the process, millions of Sikhs were killed.
Canada-based author Rupi Kaur also tweeted: “The hypocrisy of @facebook’s approach to free speech: Zuckerberg says fb’s principles prohibit him from blocking trump as he incites violence & hate. Meanwhile as Sikhs raise their voice to mark the injustices of 1984: Sikh hashtags are blocked. @amy-xiaoshi-depaolainstagramcomms do better.
In response to Kaur, Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s chief executive said he had never heard about the issue before. “Not sure what’s going on here, but we’re looking into it and will circle back,” wrote Mosseri from his personal account.
Soon after, Instagram announced that the block had been reversed. In a tweet, Instagram wrote, “Thanks for your patience today. We investigated this issue and found that these hashtags were mistakenly blocked on March 7th following a report that was inaccurately reviewed by our teams.”
The social media platform claimed the tag was added to a ban list after a report was inaccurately filtered out by its teams. Instagram immediately owned up to its mistake by tweeting, “We became aware that these hashtags were blocked today following feedback we received from the community, and quickly moved to unblock them. Our processes fell down here, and we’re sorry.”
The company further stressed, “This is an incredibly important, painful time for the Sikh community. We designed hashtags to allow people to come together and share with one another. It’s never our intention to silence the voices of this community, we are taking the necessary steps so this doesn’t happen again.”
Earlier this week, Instagram tendered an apology for inadvertently blocking #BlackLivesMatter. Instagram explained that a defect in its spam detection system caused the latest glitch, according to India Today.
However, Mail Online suggested that unlike Facebook and Instagram’s other apparent mixups in the recent months, the word Sikh had been blocked because of the companies’ human error, instead of algorithm.
As the company failed to follow up on why and how the word ‘Sikh’ was blocked or how the ban escaped detection for so long, many netizens took on social media to portray their rage.
One user commented directly on Instagram Comms thread, “This is nowhere near enough information or a proper explanation. An entire community erased as a hashtag from Instagram and Facebook over an ‘inaccurately reviewed report.”
Many others demanded further explanation behind what happened how these global social media giants would never make the same mistake again.
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