Facebook Doesn’t Flag Trump’s Posts But Censors #Sikh “By Mistake”

Social Commentary

Facebook Doesn’t Flag Trump’s Posts But Censors #Sikh “By Mistake”

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Facebook has not bothered to flag Donald Trump’s “inflammatory” posts on the George Floyd protests. But it did not think twice before blocking #Sikh and #Sikhism for a number of users. Instagram and its parent company have been called out by social media users for reportedly blocking the hashtag on their platforms. Instagram was quick to lift its ban, citing the censorship as a “mistake”, Facebook took a couple of hours to do the same.

Interestingly, it admitted that the block had been in place as early as March 7 and was brought to their attention only on Wednesday, June 3, after receiving “feedback”. The management claimed that the hashtag was banned “following a report that was inaccurately reviewed” by their team.

The ban came to light when many Sikhs worldwide wanted to post about the anniversary of the Operation Blue Star, which involved the Indian Army storming the Golden Temple on the night of June 5, 1984.

Several users highlighted that every #Sikh hashtag searched for on the photo-sharing space was met with an error window. “Posts for this hashtag are temporarily hidden because of unusual activity that may not meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines,” it said.

Poet and author Rupi Kaur hit out at Facebook’s blatant hypocrisy and double standards in violation of “free speech”.

Ravi Singh, founder and CEO of Khalsa Aid, too called out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for trying to silence the grievances of the community.

Many others shared a similar sentiment and couldn’t understand “why” would the ban occur in the first place.

Following the outrage, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, replied to Kaur’s tweet saying, “Not sure what’s going on here” and assured that the team was “investigating why this happened” and would “circle back”.

It is important to note that it is not the first time that Facebook has inexplicably singled out a community. At a time when Americans are fighting back years of oppressive systematic racism, the social media giant earlier this week “incorrectly” blocked #blacklivesmatter messages on Instagram. It reasoned that the ban was due to a spam-detection system in place and was by no means a planned effort to drown out the rising voices.

With apologies for falling short in their efforts and for causing inconvenience to the Sikh community at an “incredibly important, painful time”, the Instagram team stated that it would take “necessary steps so this doesn’t happen again.”

Although a few users were able to see and interact with the hashtag, the company has failed to provide any clarity or a viable reason as to why their platforms failed to detect the error by themselves.

Facebook’s lack of explanation has led users to factor in the ever-changing algorithm and a deliberate human intervention to moderate people’s speech.

It is starting to seem like Facebook is selective in picking “what’s on your mind”.