BY Yasmine Jacobs 2 MINUTE READ

Social media tech giants have been called on to explain ’discriminatory’ algorithms after Instagram and Twitter blamed technical errors for deleting posts that mention the forceful removal of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

According to reports, Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood have taken to social media to post on the violence and evictions, but users found their posts, photos or videos removed or their accounts blocked.

Instagram and Twitter said the accounts were “suspended in error by automated systems” but assured the issue has been resolved and content reinstated. However, groups in the Middle East say there are still complaints of content removal.

In a statement, Instagram said that an automated update caused content re-shared by multiple users to appear as missing. This affected posts on Sheikh Jarrah, Colombia as well as US and Canadian indigenous communities.

IOL TECH spoke to a Facebook company spokesperson and this is what the company said about the issue.

“Towards the end of last week, Instagram experienced a technical bug which impacted millions of people’s Stories, Highlights and Archives globally. People around the world who were impacted by the bug, including many in our Palestinian community, saw their Stories that were re-sharing posts disappear, as well as their Archive and Highlights Stories.”

“The bug wasn’t related to the content itself, but was rather a widespread technical issue. This was fixed as quickly as possible, and Stories that had not expired were restored and once again available to view.”

Facebook added that users whose Stories had already expired can find their Stories restored in their Archives, as long as the Archive function is enabled.

“We are so sorry this happened – especially to those who felt like they could not bring attention to incredibly important causes, and who felt this was an intentional suppression of their voices and stories. That was not our intent whatsoever.

Facebook noted that الاقصى# and الأقصى# (Aqsa and al-Aqsa) hashtags were restricted and said they were restricted in ’error’.

“On May 7, we were also made aware that the الاقصى# and الأقصى# hashtags were restricted in error – these restrictions have been lifted and people should now be able to use them as normal. This was unrelated to the technical issue, which affected Stories, Archives and Highlights globally and has also now been fixed.”

It was unclear what caused this error.

This is what the company said about Instagram’s warning labels and said that warning labels were applied to content in error.

“When content is particularly graphic, violent or sensitive, we may add warning labels to prepare people before they click through to see it. That’s because we understand that some people have different sensitivities when it comes to this type of content. Content underneath these warning labels is still available to view for anyone who chooses to see it, and the warning labels do not mean that the content breaks our rules. We’re aware that some people were seeing warning labels applied to their Stories, despite the content not being graphic. We’ve removed the labels which were applied in error, and we’re working to prevent this happening again.”

Facebook said it is “closely monitoring” the situation in Sheikh Jarrah and vowed that it will “continue to review and address issues” as soon as teams become aware of them.


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