Indigenous

Instagram apology for MMIWG posts that disappeared is inadequate, advocate says

Instagram issued an apology Thursday night after posts about missing and murdered Indigenous women disappeared on a day meant to raise awareness of the issue, but advocates say it doesn't go far enough to address the harm that was done.

Apology didn't address harm caused by erasure of posts on day meant to raise awareness, says Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson said on Thursday that an MMIWG educational post that she created for Instagram disappeared overnight. (Joshua Best)

Instagram issued an apology Thursday night after posts about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) disappeared on a day meant to raise awareness of the issue, but advocates say it doesn't go far enough to address the harm that was done.

"I really don't think that Instagram has adequately addressed that feeling of silencing and erasure," said Emily Henderson, an Inuk arts and culture writer based out of Toronto. 

Wednesday was Red Dress Day in Canada and the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the United States. On Thursday, people on both sides of the border flooded social media with comments saying their Instagram "stories" had disappeared.

On Thursday afternoon, Instagram said on Twitter that the problem  was a "widespread global technical issue," which specifically affected the platform's "stories" mode. 

By Thursday evening, the social media platform said the issue was fixed and that it had "impacted many stories containing re-shared posts created yesterday and early this morning, plus Highlights + Archive more broadly."

"We're sorry to all impacted, especially those raising awareness for important causes globally," the statement said.

Henderson said she thinks the statement didn't take responsibility for the impact of what transpired on Thursday.

"I don't think there's been enough emphasis put on ... the timing of this and how it was just a traumatic experience or re-traumatized people all over again to wake up and to have this feeling of being silenced or erased," she said.

"To me, the statement is like sweeping it under the rug and hoping it's going to go away. But I don't think that's fair and I think it's too late now." 

Instagram user calls for more transparency

The technical glitch wasn't exclusive to Instagram stories on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and another advocate says she would like to see Instagram respond more quickly when there are technical problems.

"I think they need to provide clarification and more transparency right when it happens," said Tali Bogler, who is a non-Indigenous family doctor and obstetrics provider in Toronto.

As the co-founder of PandemicPregnancyGuide on Instagram, an account dedicated to helping pregnant and postpartum people, Bogler said she noticed that half of the account's Instagram stories went missing Wednesday.

"The stories that were deleted were related to the crisis in India, maternal mental health and then also missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls," said Bogler. 

She said she'd like to see confirmation that things like this won't happen again, although she still has questions about whether or not the disappearance of the posts was intentional.

'It was not our intention to silence voices'

In an email to CBC News on Friday, a spokesperson with Facebook Canada, Instagram's parent company, offered a more specific response to Indigenous people whose posts vanished.

"We're really sorry to everyone impacted, especially those using their platform to raise awareness about important causes like the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Red Dress Day," the statement said.

"It was not our intention to silence voices sharing valuable information for their communities."

Henderson said she plans on continuing her advocacy and is encouraging people to read the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

A woman walks past red dresses hanging along a sidewalk near Dr. Charles Best Secondary School in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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