Facebook has admitted to censoring posts tagged with #EndSARS following thousands of complaints from Instagram users, including Kelly Rowland, who shared photos of their content either being blocked out or tagged with a note saying it was "false information," according to Vice News and Al Jazeera.
Instagram is wrongly censoring posts about Nigeria #EndSARS protests, labeling info about police violence "false information."
— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 22, 2020
Nigerians across the internet and many others have spent the last few weeks raising awareness about the #EndSARS movement that has evolved into a massive protest effort against police brutality and impunity in Nigeria.
#EndSARS, a reference to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad within the Nigerian Police Force, has been trending for weeks as the peaceful protests have grown and the response from police has been increasingly violent. Earlier this week, security forces shot at protesters as Blavity previously reported.
As people continue to spread awareness about the crisis, many have found that when they post about the protests on Instagram, their posts are either being censored or flagged as false.
"We are aware of an issue where some posts in support of #EndSARS are being incorrectly flagged as false in our systems. We are working quickly to resolve this,” a Facebook spokesperson told VICE News.
But thousands of people were still reporting that their posts were being censored if they included anything about the protests or added the #EndSARS tag.
Many Nigerian users were furious.
End Sars post are being flagged as false information on Instagram and Facebook
— ZEUS (@itzbasito) October 21, 2020
While Rowland later edited her post calling Instagram out, her original caption said the platform had been flagging her posts.
"I don't know why or how INSTAGRAM FLAGGED MY POST! But now I'm gonna be really disappointed in Instagram, basically saying this isn't REAL what's happening in Nigeria!! #endsars," the initial caption read as captured by Al Jazeera.
There are still hundreds of comments under her post about her original message, calling out Instagram and their parent company Facebook for trying to censor the #EndSARS movement.
Mark Zuckerberg Is Flagging The Killing Of #unarmed
#EndSARS Protesters By The Nigerian Armed Forces As Fake News. Even The #LagosStateMassacre And #LekkiGenocide Was Tagged False Information Both On Instagram And Facebook. @finkd Is An Accomplice To The Killings In Nigeria????????. pic.twitter.com/p9oHhDsGMo
— Somto Okonkwo (@MrSomtoOkonkwo) October 21, 2020
Many also noted the hypocrisy of Facebook and Instagram, who have been criticized in the past for failing to censor dead bodies and violence.
Instagram will let you see a black man get killed with no warning of it being graphic or nun but blast “false information” on a factual post about SARS
— WHY YOU BE TALKIN LIKE H*ES (@Marzae) October 21, 2020
For years, activists and legislators in countries across the world have bashed Facebook for working closely with governments and allowing dictatorial regimes to use the site to locate dissidents, suppress discontent and spread inflammatory rhetoric.
Bloomberg reported extensively on how governments across Asia, including ones in the Philippines, explicitly used Facebook to harass, arrest and silence critics.
The New York Times and United Nations noted that Facebook played an integral role in the genocide in Myanmar, allowing army generals to stoke anger at a minority population that led to widespread killings, rapes and displacement.
According to a TechCrunch examination of publicly released data from Facebook, government demands for Facebook user data have reached all time highs in recent years, illustrating the increasing role the social media giant is playing in government actions.
The protests in Nigeria reached a new phase on Tuesday when army officers opened fire on peaceful protesters and at least 15 people have been killed since the protests started, according to Reuters.
"They came down and they started shooting. It was very, very scary. I'm kinda traumatized," 26-year-old photojournalist Eti-Inyene Godwin Akpan told NBC News.
— Amnesty International Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) October 20, 2020
The Nigerian Army has faced criticism for denying Tuesday's shooting of civilians which was caught on video and in photos.
They shared a number of posts saying reports of shooting were fake.
Be Aware!!! pic.twitter.com/pby5mHqmX1
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) October 20, 2020
Even though the government agreed to shut down the Special Anti-Robbery Squad on October 11, the protests have persisted over longstanding fears that the unit will be reorganized under another name, according to NBC News.
As Blavity previously reported, the government has pledged to end or reform the SARS unit multiple times over the last ten years. Dozens of celebrities and even Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden have called on the Nigerian Army to stand down and respect peaceful protesters, NBC News reported.