Instagram removed some posts and restricted access to other content that used hashtags related to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem after mistakenly associating the name with a terrorist organization, according to an internal company message.
The error, acknowledged by Facebook, which owns Instagram, added a new irritant to the crisis roiling Jerusalem and spreading elsewhere in Israel and the occupied territories. The crisis began over an Israeli police crackdown around the mosque, which is built atop a site holy to Muslims and Jews.
Facebook said in the message that while “Al-Aqsa” often refers to the mosque, “it is also unfortunately included in the names of several restricted organizations.” Although the company did not identify those groups, the State Department has designated the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as a foreign terrorist organization, and several other groups with “Al-Aqsa” in their names have had sanctions imposed on them by the United States.
As a result, the company said, some content related to the Aqsa Mosque was mistakenly removed or restricted.
BuzzFeed News, had fueled criticism that Instagram and other social media platforms were censoring Palestinian voices after a raid by the Israeli police on the mosque left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded.
Facebook’s internal message said the company was making changes to ensure that the term “Al-Aqsa” by itself does not prompt restrictions or removals.
“These mistakes are painful, erode the trust of our community and there is no easy fix for that,” the Facebook employee wrote. “While I cannot promise that future errors will not occur — I can promise that we are working earnestly to ensure that we are not censoring salient political and social voices in Jerusalem and around the world.”
Twitter, which had also been accused of unfairly blocking Palestinian content, said in a statement that it used a combination of technology and people to enforce its rules.