Facebook users noticed that a hashtag with the phrase “Save the Children” (#SavetheChildren) appeared to be banned or censored on Facebook on Wednesday night, August 5, and into the early hours of August 6. Although statuses with the hashtag could still be posted, clicking on the hashtag didn’t reveal any results or, instead, came with a warning about community safety guidelines. After a couple of hours, it appeared the hashtag may have been restored for many people. Some Facebook users told Heavy that the hashtag was still censored for them, so the fix may not have been across the entire platform.
Here’s what you need to know:
Facebook Mobile Displayed a Warning that #SavetheChildren Posts Were Hidden to ‘Keep Our Community Safe’
While you could still post using the “Save the Children” hashtag (and Facebook automatically suggested adding a donation button when you did), the hashtag itself appeared to be banned or censored on Facebook searches. For some users, it was working again as of 12 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, August 6, but for others, the hashtag was still censored. The ban was first noticed on the evening of August 5.
Clicking on the hashtag on desktop revealed the following error message: “This Content Isn’t Available. This may be because of a technical error we’re trying to fix, or because the content was removed.”
A different error message popped up if you tried to click on the hashtag on the Facebook mobile app. On mobile, a message appeared that read: “Keeping Our Community Safe. Posts with #SavetheChildren are temporarily hidden here. Some content in those posts goes against our Community Standards.”
At the time of publication, an official reason why the posts were hidden had not been confirmed by Facebook. Some people said they were reporting to Facebook disturbing photos and pages that they’d seen and tagged them with #SavetheChildren to spread the word and ask others to report the pages too. The hashtag may have been auto-censored because of the disturbing photos that were tagged with it.
In the Facebook screenshot below, one person said they had edited their photos later because of the disturbing nature of the images.
The #SavetheChildren hashtag is associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. Additional hashtags associated with QAnon are sometimes included with the #SavetheChildren hashtag, which might have been another reason it was censored. In May, Facebook banned some QAnon pages for manipulation, while in July Facebook was still allowing some QAnon political ads.
Other Facebook users told Heavy that they thought the hashtag may have been censored because some posts with the tag were reported to Facebook as violating standards, and auto-censorship may have kicked in. Here’s one example where the hashtag appeared with a photo claiming Tom Hanks was a pedophile:
Facebook had not announced a reason for censoring the hashtag as of the time of publication.
Some commenters told Heavy that they had previously run into issues reporting disturbing Facebook pages or groups. One person told Heavy they personally had reported a disturbing page to Facebook and were later told that the page didn’t violate Facebook’s standards. Heavy has blurred out the name of the page so as not to advertise it.
The commenter told Heavy about the page they reported, asking that their name not be included: “It’s so sick I can’t even write it,” they wrote to Heavy. “Looked to be a young person being made to do something to an adult 😢. And then I got freaked out that I was even on the link to report it, and jumped out fast.”
They were later told by Facebook, as shown in the screenshot above, that the page didn’t violate Facebook’s standards. Several other people came to Heavy sharing that they too had reported disturbing groups to Facebook, but the groups had not been removed. Heavy has been able to verify that at least one of the groups has since been removed from Facebook.
News About the Temporary Ban Went Viral on Facebook & Twitter
People were talking about the ban on Facebook and Twitter, too. Some use the hashtag to promote groups that fight against child trafficking, and they expressed concern that the hashtag was censored.
Most of the tweets expressed anger about the hashtag being censored.
Some suggested that because the hashtag is sometimes associated with QAnon, that might have been why it was censored.
Some people simply shared the hashtag because they weren’t sure why it was censored.
Heavy has reached out to Facebook for comment.