Instagram users accuse Meta of 'shadow banning' posts about Palestine and Gaza

Instagram users have accused Meta of 'shadow banning' their content that referred to Palestine and Gaza over the weekend, claiming they experienced problems including limited comments, terminated livestreams and account sanctions

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has left social media users sharing posts about the victims caught in the fighting and the impact felt by both Israelis and Palestinians.

But those posting about Palestine or Gaza shared their experiences online claiming views on stories were significantly lower than they usually would be.

Shadow banning is when a user is blocked or restricted on a social media platform and can vary from an account receiving significantly less engagement on posts to making content invisible to other users.

It's often done because the platform deems the user to have broken a specific guideline that they themselves have put in place and that they consider will keep their community safe by taking further action.

One user claimed they had received just two views in two hours on the stories they had posted about events that were happening in Gaza.

Multiple Instagram users claimed they were experiencing significantly lower story views Credit: @__GoldenDragon

Others posted screenshots of the issues they were facing which appeared to show an error message that their story had been removed, while another said their account would not be shown to non-followers.

Adnan Barq, a Palestinian creator, shared on Instagram a number of screenshots claiming that the platform had prevented him from going live after posting content referring to Palestine.

A Palestinian content creator appeared to be unable to go live on his account Credit: @adnan_barq

Barq also posted screenshots that said his content would not be shared with non-followers and his story was removed because he had not adhered to "recommendations" or "community" regulations.

Another journalist, who goes by the handle ASE claimed their video became "unavailable to watch" despite being shared by thousands of other users and claimed it was another instance of shadow banning.

"I've spent countless hours with other NGOs and in private conversations with people at Meta and Facebook about the shadow banning and here I am...

"But if you watch it, and you feel something and you want to share it so other people can watch it even though you've shared it and it's been up there for 24 hours nobody who's on your feed who sees your stories can click through into it... and that's a very effective way to limit the spread of truth."

Error messages appeared whilst one user was in the middle of posting content Credit: @adnan_barq

Fatima Bhutto, a writer and columnist in Pakistan claimed her comments became an issue over the weekend alleging Instagram were limiting them on posts about Gaza.

"It seems that Instagram are limiting my comments or they're locking people out of my comments.

"I initially thought they weren't... but it seems like they definitely are now."

It's not the first time Meta have faced allegations of supposedly 'shadow banning' content that refers to Palestine and Gaza as other prominent figures have suggested their posts have faced similar action.

Last year American model Bella Hadid, who has a Palestinian father and has previously been a vocal advocate for Palestine, claimed her content was facing issues on the platform.

Model Bella Hadid has previously claimed her stories about Palestine have caused her to be 'shadow banned' Credit: @bellahadid / 2022

In a story, she claimed that Instagram had "disabled" her from posting to her story, and it was happening "pretty much only when it is Palestine based I'm going to assume".

"When I post about Palestine I get immediately shadow banned and almost one million less of you see my stories and posts."

Complaints seemed to ease up over the weekend with Meta commenting on what they believed had happened to the stories function.

Meta Spokesperson, Andy Stone, said "We identified a bug impacting all Stories that re-shared Reels and Feed posts, meaning they weren’t showing up properly in people’s Stories tray, 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."