Facebook and Instagram are falsely tagging content linked to peaceful anti-police brutality demonstrators in Nigeria as fake news.
As activists tried to upload images of Nigeria’s #EndSARS protests, the social media companies blocked their posts.
The issue was flagged Wednesday by multiple social media users who said Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) were filtering out mentions of the hashtags related to the protests, which have been trending in recent days.
The protests, which have lasted for almost two weeks so far, began as demonstrations against Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)—a unit of the Nigerian police force that has been accused of alleged extrajudicial killings and the indiscriminate extortion of young people. Now, however, they have morphed into broader protests against general police brutality and the Nigerian government.
On Tuesday night, the Nigerian military opened fire on peaceful anti-police brutality demonstrators in Lagos, killing a reported 15 people and injuring hundreds.
Users who attempted to post content with the #EndSARS hashtag on Wednesday were met with an alert saying that there was “false information in your post.”
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the #EndSARS hashtag had been incorrectly flagged.” We are aware of an issue where some posts in support of #EndSARS are being incorrectly flagged as false in our systems. We are working quickly to resolve this,” the spokesperson said.
Facebook did not say how the issue arose, how many people it affected, or when it would be fixed. It’s not the first time that Facebook has inaccurately flagged content from activists. Just last week, Facebook admitted that it mistakenly marked posts by the Sunrise Movement group in Sacramento as going against its Community Standards, again without explaining how that happened.
The government is now attempting to silence local media, with the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) warning media outlets not to “embarrass individuals, organizations, government or cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society at large.”
As the protests continue to roil his country, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a former 1980s military dictator, has not spoken publicly for over a week and has not commented on Tuesday’s massacre.
Before his self-imposed silence, Buhari on October 12 promised “extensive police reforms” and to bring those responsible for extra-judicial killings to justice. However, he also downplayed the scale of the problem of police misconduct, saying it was limited to “a few bad eggs.” Now, activists are calling for the president to resign.