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Activists, influencers raise alarm after MMIWG content disappears from Instagram on Red Dress Day

Click to play video: 'Instagram removes MMIWG content on Red Dress Day' Instagram removes MMIWG content on Red Dress Day
WATCH: Indigenous influencers across Canada are concerned after their posts about MMIWG were removed by Instagram on Red Dress Day – May 6, 2021

Following a day intended to amplify concerns about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Indigenous women across Canada are left wondering why social media posts about Red Dress Day and MMIWG have disappeared from their profiles.

Indigenous activist Steffi Parker said Instagram removed all of her recent stories, posts and even archived content about MMIWG.

She said the realization was devastating, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted most community advocacy to social media platforms.

“Lots of things have been moved online,” Parker said. “Whether it’s gatherings in support or in protection of (MMIWG), or even fundraising.”

Read more: Saskatchewan leaders, community and businesses mark Red Dress Day

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“All we want to do is share awareness of how our women and girls and two-spirit people are literally being murdered, disappearing, being sex trafficked into other countries,” she added.

Her friend Audrey Medwayosh is a beadwork artist based in Vancouver, B.C. who experienced the same issue on the platform.

“Anything I had posted or reposted from my account had been removed when I looked at it this morning,” Wedwayosh said. “Community is very important to indigenous people and especially since COVID-19, using social media for networking has been very important to us.”

Tiktok and Instagram activist Bee Higgins said after speaking with other connections across the country, they realized it was not an isolated issue.

“We all came to the conclusion that this had happened to all of us quite universally,” Higgins said. “None of our posts were accessible anymore and none of them could be recovered.”

They say it feels like another step in silencing First Nations people.

Read more: ‘Is that the best?’ Marc Miller questions RCMP’s efforts to combat systemic racism

Instagram said in a statement to Global News that the issue had nothing to do with MMIWG or Red Dress Day, calling it a “widespread global technical issue,” with uploading and viewing stories,” adding, “we’re fixing it right now.”

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An Instagram spokesperson also clarified that it is never the company’s intention to limit the voices of the Indigenous community.

Both Parker and Higgins say this doesn’t align with what they’ve experienced, though.

Parker said a post about a new house plant was left up while other posts about Red Dress Day posted both before and after were removed, along with non-visible archived content.

Higgins said several of their posts remained up as well.

Read more: MMIWG action plan delayed due to coronavirus pandemic, minister says

“I was posting about my own personal grief about the loss of my cat yesterday and those posts were just fine,” Higgins said. “The only ones I had removed were anything to do with Indigenous issues or Indigenous celebration.”

The community is working to share and re-upload content about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people to their platforms, but say they remain worried it might be removed again.

“What I’m hearing from others,” Medwayosh said, “is that we’d like to know why shouldering the burden or raising awareness is on us, but also having to fight censorship is on us.”

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