Facebook appears to be blocking the hashtag #Sikh for a number of users. This was highlighted by a huge number of users on Twitter and independently verified by Gadgets 360 as well. Curiously, the blocking of the hashtag appears to be happening selectively, as some members accounts could not search for the term, but results were showing up for others. Gadgets 360 has reached out to Facebook for more details about why #Sikh was hidden, and why this appears to have been done only for some users but not all. The hashtag was also blocked on Instagram, but has now been restored.
At a time when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided not to act against posts by US President Donald Trump which many felt were an incitement to violence, it appears to be blocking a very broad term owing to some unspecified community standards. Facebook staffers have left the company owing to the controversial posts, whereas Twitter took a firmer stand, putting a public interest notice on President Trump’s tweets, marking that they were “glorifying violence”.
This has been brought up by many in the Sikh community, who are aghast that even as Facebook defends President Trump’s posts, it is censoring a hashtag that refers to an entire community. However, a response by a senior executive in the company suggests that the entire issue might have been a bug.
The issue was first seen by Gadgets 360 thanks to a tweet by Ravinder Singh, Founder and CEO of Khalsa Aid, but a quick search on Twitter shows that the issue is quite widespread. There are hundreds of tweets pointing out the blocking of #Sikh on Facebook at the time of writing. Poet and author Rupi Kaur directly called out “the hypocrisy of Facebook’s approach to free speech,” in a tweet.
Kaur wrote, “Zuckerberg says FB’s principles prohibit him from blocking Trump as he incites violence and hate. Meanwhile, as Sikhs raise their voice to mark the injustices of 1984: Sikh hashtags are blocked.”
Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram and former head of News Feed, replied to Kaur’s tweet saying, “Not sure what’s going on here, but we’re looking into it and will circle back. Thanks for calling it out.” Soon after, the hashtag was restored on Instagram.
Mosseri then replied again, and wrote, “Not sure how the #Sikh hashtag ended up blocked. It’s now unblocked on Instagram, we are working to unblock it on Facebook, and we’re investigating why this happened.”
In a statement released on Twitter, Instagram team blamed human error for the issue and revealed the hashtag was blocked for months.