Instagram, owned by Meta, seems innocuous enough when it comes to sharing content. But in reality, the insidious censorship on the platform attacks Christians, conservatives, and the pro-life movement.
Like Facebook, Instagram posts are subject to a biased selection of third-party fact-checkers. These fact-checkers hid a photo from Donald Trump Jr., for containing “partly false” information. Trump Jr. has been a vocal critic, accusing the site of also removing a photo of him with a military veteran and threatening users who highlight media inconsistencies. Instagram and Facebook also issued a joint ban on Alex Jones, Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, Louis Farrakhan and others in 2019 in a crackdown on “misinformation and extremism.”
Facebook defended the decision to The Atlantic saying, “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
The photo and short video sharing app, Instagram, has more than 1 billion monthly users and is worth upwards of $100 billion. One of the most common accusations against Instagram is over shadow banning user content, even though the company continues to deny the practice. Shadow banning is the act of secretly hiding a user’s content from their followers, or blocking it from the “Explore” feature.
Instagram has also been caught shadow banning pro-life content, banning a conservative cartoonist’s account and incorrectly blocking ads for a children’s book celebrating women’s suffrage because it was co-written by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
- Ads for Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and her daughter’s co-written children’s book about Tennessee's ratification of women’s voting rights were flagged and incorrectly blocked by Instagram three times in 2020. The first time Instagram said, “it’s reasonable it was flagged but upon review, political ads authorization is not necessary.” After the second, the company told The Federalist they were blocked because of the potential to “influence the outcome of an election, or existing proposed legislation.”
- Instagram not only blocked an Exodus Cry anti-porn video posted by Moral Revolution, it shut the account down in July 2020. After outcry, Moral Revolution’s account was reinstated without explanation of the incident.
- Bullying on Instagram won’t be tolerated, unless it’s against white people. It took a conservative backlash to get a “Mute White People” GIPHY sticker removed in July 2020. Facebook also owns GIPHY, although stickers are submitted by users.
- A Christian worship leader said his live worship videos were branded by Instagram as “harmful” content in June 2020.
- During the George Floyd protests, Instagram blocked and removed posts including FBI crime statistics about racial violence but later reinstated them in June 2020.
- After a Brazilian fact-checker labeled a Life News story about aborting unborn babies with Down Syndrome “Falso,” Instagram hid the post with a message that “Independent Fact-Checkers Say This is False” in February 2020. All fact-checked images are also removed from hashtags and blacklisted from search results.
- Instagram banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos, alt-right radio host Paul Joseph Watson and conservative Jewish activist Laura Loomer, who is outspoken against Islam, in May 2019. At the same time, it banned white supremacist politician Paul Nehlen and left-wing anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan in a crackdown on “misinformation and extremism.” Of all of them, Infowars got the harshest treatment. Instagram said it would remove any posts including Infowars content, videos, audio or articles unless the content was being condemned.
- Instagram restricted influencers’ use of branded or sponsored content for alcohol, tobacco, vaping and guns in December 2019. It prefers branded content promote the LGBTQ community and indoctrinate children in gender queer theory through children’s books.
- Instagram added anti-bullying artificial intelligence in December 2019, which preemptively warns users if their captions could be offensive. It already had a filter system in place to block harassing and offensive comments.
- Posts from pro-life group Let Them Live were “inadvertently” throttled and prevented from showing up on Explore, along with certain hashtags they used to create viral content, in May 2019. Instagram dropped the restrictions.
- Instagram began testing out shadowbanning “disinformation” in May 2019, according to Poynter, a liberal journalism institute that gets funding from George Soros. The Poynter Institute oversees Facebook’s fact-checkers. Pop-ups from “deeply distorted” Politifact would also pop up to warn people against purportedly false content.
- Donald Trump Jr. accused Instagram of censoring him several times including for deleting a photo of him with a military veteran in April 2019. The site’s fact-checkers also hid a Trump, Jr. photo because of “partly false” information in 2020. He also shared screenshots from users who attempted to show two contradictory CNN headlines, which were taken down for false information.
- Conservative editorial cartoonist Ben Garrison claimed Instagram banned his account after he posted a cartoon “Two-Faced Dem,” which showed Islamists throwing rocks at a gay man under Sharia law, in April 2019.
- Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she was warned by Instagram in February 2019, and could not "operate my account because I posted an image of Elizabeth Warren’s Bar of Texas registration form via @washingtonpost. I’m warned that I am ‘harassing,’ ‘bullying,’ and ‘blackmailing’ her.” Instagram later reinstated her, calling it a mistake.