Facebook and Instagram censored hashtags related to apparent Russian massacres of Ukrainian civilians, then unblocked them on Monday.
The blocked hostages included #RussianWarCrimes, #Bucha and #BuchaMassacre — references to apparent atrocities uncovered in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha in recent days following the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Horrific images from the town appeared to show civilian mass graves and unarmed people shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs, prompting US President Joe Biden to call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be put on trial for war crimes.
A Ukrainian journalist appears to have first flagged the blocked Facebook and Instagram hashtags on Sunday morning. On Monday afternoon, Meta spokesman Andy Stone said the company had unblocked the hashtags after a New York Times reporter drew additional attention to the issue.
“This happened automatically because of the graphic content people posted using these hashtags,” Stone wrote in response to the reporter. “When we were made aware of the issue yesterday, we acted quickly to unblock the hashtags.”
It’s unclear exactly how long the hashtags were blocked or how many posts were affected. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for more details.
Meta has found itself at the center of several controversies related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia blocked both Facebook and Instagram in March in retaliation for the sites restricting Russian state propaganda accounts.
Meta also loosened its hate speech policy in March to allow users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine war, Reuters reported.