Thousands of social media users posted black images on Tuesday to voice support for the Black Lives Matter movement — but activists warned that well-meaning supporters were unintentionally silencing real protesters.
#BlackoutTuesday began in the music industry, with major record labels like Columbia, Interscope, and Republic Records announcing they would cease operations for the day to stand with protesters calling for justice after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police.
Soon, other tech music companies like Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud joined in, and the hashtag movement spread beyond the music world.
But there’s been an unintended side effect of the support: Hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, which were attached to the posts about Blackout Tuesday, have been drowned out with images of dark squares.
“If you do #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram, do NOT use the hashtag #blacklivesmatter or any of the other ones folks are using for info,” warned activist and Campaign Zero founder Brittany Packnett Cunningham “It BURIES all the important information and connection.”
Protesters have used #BlackLivesMatter and similar hashtags to share information as they demonstrate, but the flood of black images was picked up by Twitter and Instagram’s algorithms and crowded searches for those hashtags.
Others argued that the hashtags could be co-opted by those who opposed the protesters, and some pushed on users to amplify the voices of people of color or educate themselves instead.
Be strategic about #BlackOutTuesday.
Still post about what Black people are experiencing.
Post what’s happening at protests + get involved with them.
Educate + share resources about white supremacy.
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) June 2, 2020
By Tuesday morning, some Black Lives Matter supporters had even used the algorithms against opponents. Some supporters started flagging their posts with hashtags like #SecondAmendment and #WomenForTrump, causing those searches to be blacked out as well.
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