Instagram's 'black out' virtue signal backfires by censoring activists

Nearly every image on Instagram today was a black square. In what universe is the silencing of black voices actual advocacy of those voices?
Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson Montreal, QC

Tuning into Instagram today was an entirely pointless undertaking. Nearly every image was a black square. This was done as a protest in support of black lives in the US, in opposition to police brutality. But in what universe is the silencing of black voices actual advocacy of those voices?

Was this an intentional maneuver to silence voices on social media today? Or was it a well-meaning effort to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter cause? Either way, it created a protest that was not only silent, but invisible.

Many on social media decried this weird practice. Criticism came from all corners.

Tim Pool tweeted: "Wow, smart actually. The black out protest online has completely censored everything. Police brutality, rioting…"

Muna Mire also couldn’t understand why activists would go along with this, noting "sorry but i literally don't understand the point of a performative social media black out in the middle of an insurrection. seems dumb so i'mma keep it moving...."

Accounts that would normally be filled with peaceful protests, or information, or selfies, or kids are now black squares. This is supposed to help people somehow, perhaps it is intended to raise awareness, as though anyone who lives in the US right now is not aware of the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, or is not cognizant of the mass protests and riots that have engulfed law and order in dozens of the nation’s cities.

Additionally, those who are posting these black squares are using the hashtag Black Lives Matter, filling the feeds of people who are looking for information on protests and activity with black squares.

Social media protests are great for the olden days of four months ago, when people were at work and we liked to share pictures of our lunches. But that’s not what’s going on here. Instead, this is a virtue signalling enterprise so that instagram influencers can try to maintain some semblance of relevancy even though no one cares what they think at all right now.

Martin Luther King Jr. staged silent protests, where people would march for civil rights without chanting or shouting slogans in support of their cause. This was a very powerful form of protest, and it made the message stronger. People could be seen marching in support of civil rights.

But this silent social media protest is not only silent but invisible. Black squares do nothing to advocate; they are merely silent, invisible boxes, a reason to stay off Instagram entirely.

As a society, we must see, with clear eyes, both the brutal and senseless death of George Floyd at the hands of a rogue police officer and the senseless destruction and death caused by anarchist rioters piggybacking on the warranted, peaceful protests across the United States. This should not be a partisan issue. Conservatives and progressives alike must intersect where the facts are.

It's unlikely that Instagram actually intended to "black out" photographic evidence of the protests, riots, and unrest, but that's what it did. It's a powerful metaphor for how virtue signalling actually serves to impede social progress and the truth.

Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson
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