Amnesty UTwente removed from Instagram several times

| Stan Waning

Amnesty UTwente can no longer be found on Instagram against its will. The activist group is in the dark as to why Meta – Instagram's parent company – removed Amnesty's account several times. The group was also attacked recently in the city centre of Enschede.

Amnesty UTwente during the march on 8 March.

In November, Amnesty UTwente saw her account banned for the first time. That happened after the group spoke out in favor of the importance of human rights in the Palestinian case. 'But not in a radical or outspoken way. In fact, we did not take sides and also spoke out after the Hamas attack on 7 October. We held a moment of silence at the O&O square for all the victims of the conflict’, says Alexandra Mulder Gonzalez, one of the faces behind Amnesty UTwente.

Whether Meta took down the account because of statements about Palestine is unclear, because the company refrained from explaining why the ban was made. The action group – even though it lost all its content and more than a thousand followers – did not give up and set up a new account, but it was deleted again by Meta not much later – without warning. 'It makes you feel outraged. I see action groups in Enschede that are much more outspoken and partisan on Instagram. They are not bothered by anything, but we on the other hand seem to be targeted consistently’, says Mulder Gonzalez. ‘The difference we see is that we are a feminist group and the hate towards these groups is rising. We get hate messages on a regular basis and suspect bots are reporting us.’


The student says she has a suspicion as to why Meta dealt with them on several occasions. 'As Amnesty, we stand for connection, equality and we try to bring people with different opinions together to start the conversation. But it has been proven that polarizing works better on social media. It seems that Meta is not waiting for accounts that call for connection on a basis of human rights.'

Still, it seems that multiple posts about the Palestinian cause have played a role in the Meta judgment on Amnesty UTwente. The example is not an isolated one. Human Rights Watch recently strongly criticized Meta's repression of peaceful pro-Palestinian expressions. The human rights organization found in hundreds of cases that posts mentioning Hamas in a neutral manner were immediately removed from Instagram and Facebook. In addition, several independent journalists have seen their accounts suspended or permanently closed. A number of posts criticizing the Israeli government were removed because they were said to be dangerous. An Instagram user who posted an emoji of the Palestinian flag was warned that this could be 'hurtful', NRC wrote at the end of 2023.


Mulder Gonzalez is indignated that their page has been lost several times, but indicates that the action group refuses to throw in the towel. 'Our community is strong and we are welcoming more and more people to our Whatsapp group. Under the name aist.utwente we created a new Instagram-account last week. We deliberately omitted Amnesty – however ridiculous – out of fear of the Meta algorithm, even though we are an officially recognized sub-association. We will continue to draw attention to important themes. Fortunately, Amnesty International supports us, even though they don't come into contact with Meta either. That's virtually impossible.'

Activists attacked during march

Not being welcome on Instagram is not the only low point for Amnesty UTwente in the past period. During a peaceful march through the city center of Enschede on March 8 – International Women's Day – the group was attacked by a man. 'With about a hundred people we walked a march through Enschede. We did everything in consultation with the police and the municipality and only drew attention to equality, just about the safest opinion there is', Mulder Gonzalez recalls.

Near the Van Heekplein, a man decides to walk up to the group, pull the banner with the text Unite in the Fight 4 Equality out of the hands of the activists and throw himself into the group. In doing so, he throws a few punches before a few activists work him to the ground. Officers present did not intervene and let the man walk away, video footage of the incident shows. When the man later turned back, his details are noted by officers. ‘I don’t see this incident, Meta's censorship and haters reporting us with false reasons as isolated incidents. It fits in with a trend in which peaceful activist groups are finding it increasingly difficult to hear their voices later. Very worrying.'


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