Instagram admits moderation mistake over racist comments

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Instagram has admitted a mistake in its technology meant racist comments and emojis were not removed.

It comes after a flood of racist abuse was directed at England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho following the men’s Euro 2020 final.

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said content had “mistakenly” been identified as within guidelines instead of referred to human moderators.

The issue had now been fixed, he said.

“We have technology to try and prioritise reports and we were mistakenly marking some of these as benign comments, which they are absolutely not,” he told BBC News.

“The issue has since been addressed.

“Reports on these types of comments should [now] be reviewed properly.”

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On Monday, BBC News reported a comment containing several orangutan emojis on Saka’s Instagram.

Within minutes, a notification was received saying the platform’s technology “found that this comment probably doesn’t go against our guidelines”.

BBC News requested a further review but received no response.

Following Mr Mosseri’s comments, on Wednesday night, several more racist comments and emojis were reported – but no notification of the results of any review was received.

A quick scroll on Saka’s account reveals plenty more racist comments yet to be reported and removed.

“It is absolutely not OK to send racist emojis, or any kind of hate speech, on Instagram,” Mr Mosseri added in a series of tweets.

“To imply otherwise is to be deliberately misleading and sensational.

“Emojis are difficult, as are words whose meaning changes based on context.

“Slurs evolve as well, so the work is never done.”

Monkey emojis

Racism on Instagram has been a long-standing issue, with a vast amount of content to moderate.

In April, Liverpool Football Club criticised the platform after some of its players were sent racist monkey emojis.

Instagram has previously consulted with anti-discrimination and anti-bullying groups to curate a list of offensive terms, phrases and emojis.

Users can also filter out specific words or emojis on their accounts, by changing the Hidden Words tool in settings.

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