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Instagram Apologized for an Unexplained Global Technical Issue

Olawale Ameen Olawale Ameen
Technology
8th May 2021
Instagram Apologized for an Unexplained Global Technical Issue
Instagram: It was a global technical glitch (Getty).

The Claim

Instagram is silencing indigenous people’s voices.

Emerging story

On Thursday, May 6th, Instagram users cried out, saying that the photo-sharing app had deleted photos in their ‘Insta Stories’ meant to mark the Missing, Murdered, Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. They particularly decried the move saying its censorship against the spread of what is happening in Colombia. According to AJPlus, posts that were affected included stories about missing and murdered indigenous women, posts highlighting the forced displacement of Palestineans by Israeli forces from their homes, and stories raising awareness of the protests going through all of Colombia.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar’s investigation reveals that while the claims of Instagram users are indeed accurate, the incidence is not an attempt to suppress them. Shortly after users began to complain, Instagram responded via its verified Twitter account, saying that they were aware that some individuals were having issues uploading and viewing stories. They stated, however, that contrary to claims, the case was a global technical glitch and not related to any particular topic and that they were working to fix it. 

The next day, the platform issued a more detailed explanation explaining that just after midnight on May 5th, its automated system initiated an update that sought to detect better how well it detects reshared media in a story.

The update was important because if someone can no longer see media in a shared story because it has either been archived or deleted, the system ensures that the account itself gets deleted since the story would no longer be of use.

Unfortunately, this impacted stories that contained re-shared posts created between Wednesday 5th and about 3 pm (PT) on Thursday 6th. It also affected the platform’s Highlights and Archive sections. According to the forum involved tens of millions of Stories, especially those with posts from the feed.

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Given the timeline of the incidence, the most prominent countries that were most impacted were the United States, Brazil, Colombia, and East Jerusalem. As such, individuals in Colombia and East Jerusalem who were in the middle of a nationwide protest for reforms, commemorating MMIW day and protesting forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah respectively felt mainly targeted, thinking it was a direct suppression of their voices.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Colombians are witnessing such. This year, indigenous beaders had their account either locked or outrightly banned, as reported by VICE.

Technical glitches and routine updates are a common feature of mobile and tech companies' operations, and it is not uncommon for users to witness a restriction or an inability to carry out a particular function on such networks during downtimes or when an update is being carried out.

In a third statement addressing the disappearing content, Instagram said the problem was related to a May 6 “update” to the platform’s “automated systems,” which primarily impacted content relating to protests in Colombia, Palestinian evictions in Jerusalem, and MMIWG2S content.

Misbar’s Classification

Suspicious

Misbar’s Sources

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