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**Author’s note: this article was written after the artist granted me permission to talk about this issue.
“We take action whenever we become aware of hate speech, and we’re continuously improving our detection tools so we can find it faster.”
This is Instagram’s disclaimer regarding their zero-tolerance policy when it comes to hate speech.
But what still isn’t clear is what Instagram regards as hate speech and hurtful in general. What prompts the people behind the screen to send a message to a user and tell them that they’re violating the rules?
This is not going to be a long article about freedom of speech and what makes it acceptable or not. This is just my way of shedding light on a recurring issue I’ve been witnessing on social media.
There have been allegations as to Facebook’s weak performance in capturing all the hate speech online. I personally reported accounts that were sharing racist messages and hateful contents, and nothing was done about those posts, neither on Instagram nor Facebook.
The Wall Street Journal shared an article where it states that Facebook cannot correctly capture all the hate speech or manage all the complaints sent to the company. Although Facebook later denied the leaked document that showed its weak performance, I still wonder if Instagram is facing the same issue.
A few days ago, a famous Instagram artist (you probably know him if you read Elephant‘s many articles that feature his art) was informed by Instagram that he has been reported by users for spreading content which violates their rules.
And they accepted the reports.
I had already checked the stories he shared on his page, so I was wondering if he had shared something new that might have been controversial…he did not.
So here’s what’s been reported:
Ivan shared pictures (that were already all over the internet and on Lebanese news pages) of Lebanese citizens (mostly children) hiding in Beirut when the shooting between two opposing parties had started. He shared a video of the shootings that was already on the news and on the pages of literally most of the Lebanese population.
Well, some people felt the need to report him for expressing how his heart aches to see this happen to his Lebanon.
He did not show bigotry.
He did not spread hate.
He did not speak with an obscene language.
He did not express a political opinion or offend any party.
Why did Ivan get reported? And most importantly, why did Instagram accept the reports against him?
Lebanon is going through an ugly phase where the people have grown numb to the pain. Every day, we wake up expecting bad news, wishing for the day to end before it even started. Every day, we feel like we’re being buried alive, and the outside world is rarely aware of what’s happening here.
Some still even think we live in the desert (I was asked about that) or only have one dominant religion (we have 18 religious groups).
Many people need to be aware of the blood Lebanon is bleeding.
So why shut an artist up when he is only sharing reality and spreading love?
Some might argue that he does not have the right to share these pictures seeing that he has many followers. I say that he only shared reality, and there were no graphic pictures that might be too sensitive.
It’s time to stop sugarcoating reality and start supporting the mission of spreading peace in a country that has not experienced it in a long time.