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Instagram Features “Mute White People” Sticker

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An Apple iPhone Showing the Instagram Application | Instagram Features “Mute White People” Sticker | Featured

It is a perfect example of the major double standard in the conversation on race. Instagram, owned by Facebook and one of the world’s largest social media platforms, allowed a sticker that said “mute white people”. Many referred to it as the “unbothered” sticker. However, it garnered more reactions than that.

GIPHY Sticker Makes it Through Double Moderation

The GIPHY app or website provides GIFs (short animated images) and stickers that people can use in messaging and social media platforms. Facebook owns the company, like Instagram. The sticker was accessed through GIPHY but was available on both Facebook and Instagram. This then means it was accepted by the moderation team of two Facebook-owned companies.

The sticker featured the phrase “mute white people” with a speaker icon beneath it, as if it were a button one could press on their phone to silence white people. Following public backlash, the sticker was then reportedly taken down, though as the time of this writing, can still be found here.

The Refinery29 profile uploaded the sticker, a media outlet geared toward a liberal, female audience. Refinery29 has also uploaded hundreds of stickers and other media to the website. These stickers often cater to racial themes, with GIFS such as “Pay Black Women”, “Reparation$$$”, and “Black Trans Lives Matter”.

GIPHY’s Clear Social Agenda

As GIPHY quickly noted, the company doesn’t simply let anyone upload any old sticker to the site. Per company policy:
“To ensure that GIPHY stickers will always be fun and safe no matter where you see them, we have an enhanced moderation process for approving stickers into our library. This is a permanent part of our moderation process and may impact the turnaround time for uploaded content to appear within the Sticker API (which powers partners such as Instagram),”

While GIPHY has a strict moderation policy, it also clearly moderates according to a political agenda. “Mute White People” and “Defund the Police” stickers were ostensibly OK to include on the site. However, the company unverified (a kiss of death on these platforms) the conservative outlet The Heritage Foundation.

Heritage Foundation Snubbed

In March, GIPHY exiled the Heritage Foundation from its list of verified uploaders. This means the group’s stickers and images couldn’t be featured on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

Lyndsey Fifield, the group’s social media managers, tweeted, “Just hours after tweeting this, our verified status on @GIPHY mysteriously disappeared—stripping our gifs and stickers from the gif banks on Twitter and Instagram. The only pro-life & pro-capitalism gifs on IG. I’m hopeful this was a mistake and that their team will resolve it.”

After drawing public attention to the issue, GIPHY quickly reinstated their account.

“They admitted they were wrong and reinstated our account without me taking any action. I replied to their email a month ago and (according to them) they just never checked our account again or saw my email before revoking it today.”

Narratives Framed By Facebook

Ultimately, neither Instagram nor GIPHY makes any decision without the blessing of their parent company, Facebook. The social media giant has tremendous power to influence the framing of national debates in this nation. In an age of digital censorship, cancel culture, and hypersensitivity, such platforms are also the gatekeepers of what kind of speech is acceptable and what isn’t.

GIPHY’s, and by extension Facebook’s, clear political bias in its moderation process sheds light on a larger issue of not only anti-conservatism on these platforms but also clear anti-whiteness.

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