Text: Izzy Copestake
They’ve also been accused of shadow-banning pro-Palestinian content.
Meta has issued an apology after inserting the word ‘terrorist’ into the Instagram bios of some Palestinian users. What the platform claimed was a bug, affected users who had ‘Palestinian’, the Palestinian flag emoji, or ‘Alhamdulillah’ written in Arabic in their Instagram bios.
Alhamdulillah translates to English as ‘Praise be to God’, but Instagram converted this to: ‘Praise be to God, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.’ In their apology statement, a spokesperson for Meta said: ‘We fixed a problem that briefly caused inappropriate Arabic translations in some of our products. We sincerely apologise that this happened.’ This month, hundreds of users who post pro-Palestine content have reported receiving significantly fewer views, hidden posts, and friends being unable to search their name on the platform, fuelling accusations that Instagram is shadow-banning certain posts and stories. Meta have responded by saying that there is ‘no truth’ to the allegations.
But Meta is still under fire, with many feeling that the statement does little to explain how the ‘translation’ happened. Yesterday, UNICEF reported that 2,360 children have been killed in Gaza over the last 18 days due to the intensified Israeli airstrike campaign of the densely populated area. Israeli forces have bombed hospitals, schools, and mosques in response to Hamas attacks earlier this month. Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin stated that Ireland ‘cannot accept’ collective punishment of Gaza’s entire population for the actions of Hamas.
Using the words ‘Palestinian’ and ‘terrorist’ interchangeably has raised questions over how AI systems are programmed with a bias, and demonstrated an inaccurate and dangerous translation issue, particularly on a social network used by 2.35 billion people.