Since the outbreak of violence kicked off in the occupied Palestinian territories on Oct. 7, which has since been labeled as an ongoing “mass ethnic cleansing” by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Francesca Albanese, the warfare between resistance forces and colonizing powers has not only been taking place in-land as it has evidently exported itself onto the Internet, with social media turning into a political chess mat for activists on both sides of the spectrum. After being accused of shadow-banning pro-Palestine content, Instagram is now under fire for auto-translating some users’ bios to include the phrase “Palestinian terrorist,” which the META-owned social media platform apologized for this week.
The issue, which was first flagged by 404media, saw accounts that had the term “Palestinian” written in English alongside the country’s flag and the word “alhamdulillah” in Arabic auto-translate to “Praise be to God, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.”
The auto-translation, which is both erroneous and deeply offensive, was justified by META officials as being the result of an unforeseen bug in the platform’s code.
“We fixed a problem that briefly caused inappropriate Arabic translations in some of our products. We sincerely apologize that this happened,” a spokesperson told 404media.
Having since been resolved, users are still yet to have identified the exact root cause of this sudden and jarring mistranslation, which came at a very suspicious time given current events. In fact, some users believe there was a certain level of deliberate human sway in the process given the political weight of the alleged system error and the sensitive nature of the content that was subsequently shown, though those claims haven’t been verified.
As we reported earlier this week, many Instagram users have noticed a significant drop in reach and engagement on their accounts after posting pro-Palestinian content on their feeds and Stories. According to Andy Stone, the company’s communication director, the suspicions of algorithmic bias and content suppression were allegedly also due to a “bug.”
“We identified a bug impacting all Stories that re-shared Reels and Feed posts, meaning they weren’t showing up properly in people’s Stories tray, leading to significantly reduced reach,” Stone said in a statement posted on X on Oct. 15. “This bug affected accounts equally around the globe and had nothing to do with the subject matter of the content— and we fixed it as quickly as possible.”