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Instagram silences thousands on Red Dress Day

By: Josie Fiegehen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wednesday May 5, 2021 marked Red Dress Day across Turtle Island.  Thousands of social media posts across Instagram were shared to raise awareness for MMIWG2S, and the harm caused by colonial trauma.

Thousands of content creators woke up on Thursday to find that all their story posts from the previous day had been erased without a trace.

On Thursday afternoon, Instagram communications released a tweet that said: “We know that some people are experiencing issues uploading and viewing stories. This is a widespread global technical issue not related to any particular topic and we’re fixing it right now. We’ll provide an update as soon as we can.”

Considering that communities were not permitted to gather in person due to COVID-19, social media became the vessel to share stories and experiences across Turtle Island. Red Dress Day is a day of healing for victims and families who are affected by MMIWG2S. This mass erasure of voices seems especially harmful in nature as it was only posts that contained reference to MMIWG2S that were algorithmically deleted.

Instagram has since released a lengthier statement as to why this mass erasure happened, stating it was a system update that caused the posts to be deleted, but for Indigenous communities, this is a part of a larger issue.

Indigenous voices are continually silenced and “shadow banned” across all platforms, a practice where platforms restrict, limit, or hide content from being viewed by audiences.

Sharing information and spreading awareness through social media allows people to convey messages that aren’t always shared in the mainstream media, and is an important tool for communities to stay connected and informed.

This incident should call for social media platforms to do better in their moderation of content, and be held accountable for the harm they have caused thousands on Red Dress Day.

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