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Meta Apologises After Instagram's Auto-Translate Tool Added Word 'Terrorist' To Some Palestinian User Profiles

Social media company Meta has apologised for inserting the word 'terrorist' into the profile bios of some Palestinian Instagram users, amid allegations that the company has been ‘shadowbanning’ content related to the sufferings of Palestinians during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

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Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City
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Social media company Meta has apologised for inserting the word “terrorist” into the profile bios of some Palestinian Instagram users, amid allegations that the company has been ‘shadowbanning’ content related to the sufferings of Palestinians during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

At a time when social media has become an extensive medium to witness the humanitarian crisis that currently plagues Gaza as Israel continues to stick to its ground offensive operation, Meta has been accused of censoring posts that are in support of Palestine, or demoting accounts that posts such content, meaning that their posts were less likely to appear in other people's feeds.

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Accroding to a report by The Guardian, some users that had the word “Palestinian” written in English on their profile, the Palestinian flag emoji and the word “alhamdulillah” written in Arabic, when it was auto-translated to English, the phrase read: “Praise be to god, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.” The issue was first reported by 404media,an independent, journalist-founded tech news site.

However, when the English word "Palestinian" and the flag emoji were removed, the software more translated the Arabic phrase to "Thank God," according to the report.

A spokesperson for Meta apologised for what they say was a bug in auto-translation. “We fixed a problem that briefly caused inappropriate Arabic translations in some of our products. We sincerely apologise that this happened,” the spokesperson told Guardian Australia. 

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Meanwhile, the company has also refuted allegations of taking sides over censorship of content. The company said there had been a bug this week that meant reels and posts that had been re-shared weren’t showing up in people’s Instagram stories, leading to significantly reduced reach – and that it "had nothing to do with the subject matter", meaning it was not limited to posts about Israel and Gaza.

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