Instagram said Tuesday that it inadvertently and incorrectly blocked a pro-life group from accessing a feature on the platform that users often use to make content go viral.
“We investigated this issue and found that this account was incorrectly filtered from Explore and hashtags,” a source inside Instagram told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have removed this restriction and taken steps to ensure this account is not impacted in the future.” The source is referring to a May 17 DCNF report suggesting the company was inappropriately throttling content from pro-life group Let Them Live.
Let Them Live’s Instagram’s posts stopped appearing on numerous hashtags starting on April 18, the group claimed in a May 15 press statement posted to its Instagram page. The group, which has 15,000 Instagram followers, brought its case directly to the company on April 25 as the group’s engagement rate sagged.
Emily Berning, the group’s founder and president, told TheDCNF that Instagram has yet to respond to her group’s questions. “That definitely upsets us because we feel that in order for our voice to be heard, they need to at least be responsive to our concerns,” Berning said, noting that she noticed that the blocks appeared to be removed.
The group’s content was nixed from hashtags and Instagram’s Explore, a feature on the platform displaying the most-liked content at the time of a person’s visit. Content on the feature is different for each Instagram user and comprises posts liked by people, posts from accounts similar to those a person follows, and posts with high engagement.
Emily’s husband, Nathan Berning, floated the possibility that pro-choice activists were partially responsible for the ban.
“We really do believe that that is what is happening,” he told TheDCNF in a May 17 interview, referring to what he believes is an activist-led attempt to suppress Let Them Live’s content. Berning claimed at the time that his group leveraged social media marketing practices to take over hashtags Planned Parenthood used to promote its material. The company has yet to address these suspicions.
Instagram dinged some of Let Them Live’s most influential tags, such as #ProLife, #ProChoice and #DefundPP, among others, Berning and his wife, Emily, the group’s president, claimed. Both Emily and Nathan included a spreadsheet in their press statement that contains data they argue support their contention.
Their complaints come as Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, faces criticism from conservatives who believe the social media giant is shadow banning them.
President Donald Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino Jr. was temporarily blocked in March from making public Facebook comments. The company claimed Scavino Jr.’s content contained spam. Trump later assured his supporters in a March tweet that he “will be looking into this!” His tweet linked to a story about Facebook targeting Scavino.
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