Instagram landed in hot water yesterday after some users discovered they were being blocked from posting anything with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. In a statement on Twitter, the photo sharing site blamed its anti-spam system.
In a message posted to the Instagram Comms Twitter account yesterday afternoon, the Facebook-owned photo sharing site said it were aware of the issue, and attempted to explain what happened. While some online were suspicious of institutional censorship, Instagram said the problem was caused by its automated anti-spam system, which was triggered by the sheer number of posts being uploaded with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
“We’re aware that some people are incorrectly running into ‘action blocked’ messages when using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, or resharing related posts,” wrote Instagram. “We have technology that detects rapidly increasing activity on Instagram to help combat spam. Given the increase in content shared to #blacklivesmatter, this technology is incorrectly coming into effect.”
Instagram users trying to use the hashtag were being prevented from posting by a pop-up that read, “Please try again later. We restrict certain content and actions to protect our community.”
The company didn’t outright say it had fixed the problem, nor did it disclose how many users/posts might have been affected by the issue. All users were told is that “we are resolving this issue as quickly as we can.” Then, earlier today, the Twitter account shared a request “from the community” asking people not to use the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on their #blackouttuesday posts:
Of course, this isn’t the first time Instagram or its parent company have been called out for incorrectly flagging content, but given the highly sensitive topic at hand, and the protests currently taking place across the entire United States, Instagram and Facebook will receive far more intense criticism than usual if issues like this aren’t resolved promptly.