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16 Oct 2023

J.D. Capelouto, Semafor

Meta responds to allegations of Instagram shadow-ban for pro-Palestine content

"Is Instagram ‘shadow-banning’ pro-Palestine stories? Meta says it was a bug", 16 October 2023

After Instagram users reported that their stories showing support for Palestine were effectively hidden from their followers, Meta said a bug that “affected accounts equally around the globe” was responsible.

“After posting an Instagram story about the war in Gaza yesterday, my account was shadowbanned. Many colleagues and journalists friends have reported the same,” journalist Azmat Khan wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “It’s an extraordinary threat to the flow of information and credible journalism about an unprecedented war.”

Other users, including the founder of the news and culture accounts @muslim and @muslimnews on Instagram, posted screenshots showing reduced view counts for their stories related to the war.

In a statement..., Meta said it identified a bug that impacted “all Stories” that re-shared other users’ Reels and posts. That bug caused those stories to not show up as they normally would, “leading to significantly reduced reach.”

“This bug affected accounts equally around the globe and had nothing to do with the subject matter of the content - and we fixed it as quickly as possible,” Meta said.

Step Back

Instagram and its parent company have faced criticism before over how the platform handles pro-Palestinian content.

In 2021, amid fighting between Israeli police and Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Instagram removed posts and blocked hashtags that mentioned the mosque. The platform's content moderation system mistakenly associated the site with terrorism, BuzzFeed News reported.

An external audit commissioned by the company later found that Meta had denied Palestinian users their freedom of expression and censored Arabic-language posts more heavily than Hebrew posts during the 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Meta said it was implementing several of the recommendations from the audit.

Journalists, activists, and celebrities have spoken out over the years about perceived censorship of pro-Palestine posts.