After Instagram users reported that their stories showing support for Palestine were effectively hidden from their followers, Meta said a bug that “affected accounts equally around the globe” was responsible.
Several accounts claimed they were “shadow-banned” for posting stories from the Palestinian perspective, meaning the visibility of the posts was reduced without the user’s knowledge.
“After posting an Instagram story about the war in Gaza yesterday, my account was shadowbanned. Many colleagues and journalists friends have reported the same,” journalist Azmat Khan wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “It’s an extraordinary threat to the flow of information and credible journalism about an unprecedented war.”
Other users, including the founder of the news and culture accounts @muslim and @muslimnews on Instagram, posted screenshots showing reduced view counts for their stories related to the war.
In a statement Sunday, Meta said it identified a bug that impacted “all Stories” that re-shared other users’ Reels and posts. That bug caused those stories to not show up as they normally would, “leading to significantly reduced reach.”
“This bug affected accounts equally around the globe and had nothing to do with the subject matter of the content - and we fixed it as quickly as possible,” Meta said.
Instagram and its parent company have faced criticism before over how the platform handles pro-Palestinian content.
In 2021, amid fighting between Israeli police and Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Instagram removed posts and blocked hashtags that mentioned the mosque. The platform’s content moderation system mistakenly associated the site with terrorism, BuzzFeed News reported.
An external audit commissioned by the company later found that Meta had denied Palestinian users their freedom of expression and censored Arabic-language posts more heavily than Hebrew posts during the 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Meta said it was implementing several of the recommendations from the audit.
Journalists, activists, and celebrities have spoken out over the years about perceived censorship of pro-Palestine posts. Model Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, said last year that “when I post about Palestine I get immediately shadow banned and almost 1 million less of you see my stories and posts.”