Instagram removed two anti-semitic hashtags linking Jews with the 9-11 terrorist attacks “#911wasdonebythejews” and “jewsdid911”, after the New York Times found nearly 12,000 posts on the photo-sharing site promoting the conspiracy theory in the wake of the recent massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
As The Atlantic noted, however, the photo-sharing site still has got plenty of anti-semitic content and has done a poor job of policing it. I found at least two dozen Instagram accounts with the words “hate Jews” in them. There are more than 2 million posts under the hashtag #hitler including one I found a denying the Holocaust. As I noted recently, Instagram also is chock full of pornography despite its much-mocked no nudity rule.
In a statement, Instagram said its employees have been monitoring developments in real time related to the murders of 11 people in Pittsburgh, the worst attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, and are responding accordingly.
“We are actively reviewing hashtags and content related to these events and removing content that violates our policies, including hate speech,” the company said. “We do not allow content that attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or their sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We will continue to remove this content as soon as we’re aware.”
Instagram’s problems are affecting the bottom line of its corporate parent Facebook. The largest social media site, which reported disappointing quarterly earnings Tuesday, expects total expenses to jump 40 percent to 50 percent in 2019 versus 2018 as the company hikes spending on cybersecurity among other things. Speaking to Wall Street analysts during the company’s earnings conference call, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg noted that cracking down on hate speech isn’t going to be easy.
”…we feel like we’re as dialed in as we would generally all like us to be,” he said. “And even at that point, we’re not going to be perfect because more than 2 billion people are communicating on the service. There are going to be things that our systems miss, no matter how well-tuned we are.”
One area that Instagram might want to examine is how users that have been thrown off other social media sites, such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos and alt-right comedian Owen Benjamin are able to maintain their accounts on the site.
Jones was banned from Twitter and Apple for spewing vile nonsense including declaring the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting to be a hoax. He maintains a personal account on Instagram, which has 230,000 followers, and an official account for his show Infowars, which has nearly 60,000 followers. It doesn’t look like he’s learned the error of his ways. One post on his personal account likens Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif), a prominent critic of President Trump, to an infestation of ticks and another claiming Billionaire George Soros, a Hungarian-born prominent donor to liberal causes who happens to be Jewish was a Nazi collaborator.
Yiannopoulos, who has 385,000 followers on Instagram, hasn’t learned the error of his ways either. He recently got into hot water for saying on Instagram he was disappointed that none of the package bombs mailed to prominent critics of President Donald Trump detonated. At first, Instagram refused to take action after the Daily Beast flagged the post but eventually determined that Yiannopoulos broke the site’s rule against celebrating crimes.
Benjamin has been criticized for regularly posting anti-semitic memes to his more than 53,000 Instagram followers though he denies any personal animus toward Jews and spoke out against the mass shooting in Pennsylvania. He was suspended from Twitter in April.