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A collage of GOP presidential candidates (all images by @afrochubbz/Instagram)

Last night, the activist group Dream Defenders contributed to the first GOP debate through Instagram, posting on its account collaged images of Republican candidates and members of the KKK, tagged #KKKorGOP. The hashtag refers to a campaign to highlight ideological similarities between white supremacist organizations and figures and the GOP presidential candidates, namely ones that concern “repressing the voting rights of people of color, supporting ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, stopping the fundamental right of migration by force, and defunding critical health care services for communities of color and women.”

This morning, the group discovered that Instagram had deleted not just the recent photos but its entire account; others who had used the hashtag noticed that their individual posts were gone as well. In a blog post about incident, Steven J. Pargett, communications and culture director for Dream Defenders, said he believed the Facebook-owned company had censored the content, since Facebook co-sponsored the debate. A few hours after news of the erasure spread on social media, the photo-sharing network reactivated the account — but concerns still remain over the sudden and unexplained censorship.

“In times of darkness, the people must have the freedom to shed light,” Pargett wrote. “It is truly concerning when privately owned companies like Instagram step over the lines to censor organizations and people that are participating in the Democratic process by challenging people to think critically.”

Mike Huckabee (click to enlarge)

Each published image places a GOP candidate next to a fully robed KKK member, superimposing the two over a confederate flag. Framed as if in a mugshot, each pair also stands against a height chart and behind a letter board featuring the candidate’s controversial quote. Targets of the campaign include Mike Huckabee, who said last night, “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things”; Ben Carson, with his condensed quote from 2013: “Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery”; and Donald Trump, accompanied by what’s actually a misattributed quote: “Laziness is a trait in the blacks. … black guys counting my money! I hate it.”

The pictures are extreme and their message clear, but they do not seem to warrant eradication under Instagram’s Community Guidelines. The company has recently been strictly patrolling hashtags, mostly due to violations of rules regarding nudity: in the past few weeks, it has issued temporary bans on #curvy, #goddess#EDM, and even the eggplant emoji hashtag. Instagram explained that the decisions to block those hashtags are not related to the actual terms but rather the inappropriate, sexual content linked to them — which is why the hashtags are still searchable, just now heavily monitored. That logic, however, does not extend to the images of #KKKorGOP, in which everyone (thankfully) is fully clothed. Political motivations, rather than a need to keep things G-rated, seem to have driven the deletion of the Dream Defenders’ account — a notion reinforced by the fact that Instagram reactivated the account after considerable backlash on social media calling out the company’s censorship.

Instagram has yet to provide a reason for the deactivation; Hyperallergic has reached out to the social network application but has not received a response.

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

8 replies on “Instagram Deletes Activist Account After #KKKorGOP Posts”

  1. Interesting campaign but a bit over the top. It seems like they were looking for attention and as it seems they got thousands of new followers in record time, i don’t know if they had the help of websites like http://instagramfollowers.website or similar ones.

  2. An argument could be made that it flirts with hate speech. It’s so cartoonishly inflammatory wiping the account makes business sense, kind of like the way Reddit is cleaning house with the juvenile subreddits that lower the site’s content value.

          1. Well…you have to admit, this stuff is pretty bad, appealing to prejudice and emotions in exactly the way Fox News does.

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