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Social Media Censorship and Virtual Social Justice Activism

By Jessica Dropkin

May 5th was the National Day of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Awareness. Many users of the Facebook and Instagram social media platforms shared posts using video, photos, music, dance, poetry, fashion, and art to bring awareness to this Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic. The following day, a lot of activists, and Non-Profit Organizations (NGO’s), found their posts were deleted by Instagram and/or Facebook. There was a massive amount of people spreading information on this day via social media. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s (NIWRC) posts on their instagram were taken down as well. On May 6th, the NIWRC said they were disappointed to hear from advocates and their community members that their recent social media posts regarding MMIW had been taken down overnight. Another NGO, IllumiNative, stated that the “Erasure of Native peoples and issues is violence, and is rooted in white supremacy. Instagram must be held accountable”. Throughout the centuries, Indigenous people have experienced a multitude of atrocities and repetitive attempted erasure of their culture’s history, and oppression.

Instagram stated in a tweet on Thursday, May 6th, that the cause of the mass deletion was a “global technical issue” and that it was not related to the content being shared.

This doesn’t make much sense especially to Indigenous women fighting for this epidemic that have been silenced for as long as they have existed amongst non-POC. Why would the people and organizations closest to this issue get censored from speaking out about it? Are they being reported by the people who are responsible for these missing people? Is it truly just a glitch in the matrix caused by the automatic algorithm Instagram has set up for auto censorship? Or is there something more insidious happening within the anti-activism side of social media and even the staff that oversees these posts?

There were apologies for the ‘accidental deletions’ handed out via Facebook and Instagram’s social media accounts after May 5th. However, there was no effort to reinstate the deleted posts which were already gaining momentum. There was no attempt to bring awareness to MMIW on their companies’ social media accounts to rectify the situation and bring light to an issue that they cast a shadow over with deletions.

This silencing of voices has been ongoing for as long as anyone from civil society has spoken out against human rights violations, and attempted erasure of Indigenous history. When the Black Lives Matter movement began, and protests on police brutality widened internationally, censorship online ramped up in so many similar ways to what has happened with MMIW Awareness Day. The censoring is the same for the MMIW movement, which in and of itself is violent for both causes. These voices of POC are already constantly being silenced when they speak out offline, and social media platforms have been some of the few ways they have been able to make the most noise.

Watch ‘Understanding How the Laws Encourage Violence’ by Nonviolence International New York

Join our MMIW Campaign


MMIWG Posts Removed from Instagram on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day

Digital erasure: Native Creators Cope With Instagram Deleting Posts on National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

Instagram Communications Explanation

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri’s Public Apology and Responses to the Mass Deletions

NIWRC’s Twitter Posts on the Mass Deletions of MMIW Posts


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