Almost a week into the protests across the U.S. for the killing of George Floyd, Instagram, was flooded with Black square images for “Blackout Tuesday.” Ostensibly, the images were meant to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. But thousands of squares under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter buried other posts containing critical information.
Activists pointed out the results of Instagram’s algorithm and called for users not to tag blank images with #BlackLivesMatter.
The original idea of “Blackout Tuesday” came from Atlantic Records’ Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, both Black advertising executives helming an initiative called “The Show Must Be Paused.” The initiative, a twist on the adage “the show must go on,” communicates that under current circumstances, normal life cannot go on.
The initiative’s website explains that Blackout Tuesday was meant to “intentionally disrupt the work week” and “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation” to bring to the fore different ways of supporting the Black community.
But by Tuesday afternoon, organizers and users were sounding alarms about the blackout. The images meant that many who were searching for information or updates on current protests were only seeing black squares.
Designer and content creator @sa.liine on Instagram posed a creative way to counter this: Tagging the blackout posts with conservative taglines like “Women for Trump” or “Keeping America Great” would make blackout posts show up in searches for right-wing and conservative users.
By Tuesday afternoon, many social media users announced they had removed the hashtag accompanying the black squares, though some still remained on Instagram.