Facebook and Instagram ‘mistakenly’ blocked #sikh for months

Karissa Bell
Senior Editor
Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone screen photographed for illustration photo in Krakow, Poland on 16 January, 2020. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook and Instagram have unblocked the #sikh hashtag after nearly three months, saying the block happened “mistakenly” as the result of a report in early March. 

The company says it first became aware of the block on Wednesday, after feedback from the community. Instagram unblocked the hashtag soon after, but it took several more hours for Facebook to do the same. While the hashtag was blocked, users searching for posts tagged #sikh were greeted with error messages

It’s unclear exactly how the block came about, or why it took so long for the company to realize the error. In a statement, Facebook said the block happened on March 7, “following a report that was inaccurately reviewed by our teams.”

“We investigated this issue and found that these hashtags were mistakenly blocked on March 7th following a report that was inaccurately reviewed by our teams,” the company wrote. “We became aware that these hashtags were blocked today following feedback we received from the community, and quickly moved to unblock them. Our processes fell down here, and we’re sorry.

“We designed hashtags to allow people to come together and share with one another. It's never our intention to silence the voices of this community, we are taking the necessary steps so this doesn’t happen again.”

The incident is the second time this week Instagram has acknowledged incorrectly preventing use around a specific hashtag. Earlier in the week, Instagram’s spam detection system caused some users to be unable to post or interact with the #blacklivesmatter hashtag. The company now says it was able to address the issue, and “reduce” the number of users who saw the “action blocked” message when they tried to use the hashtag.