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17 Dec, 2020 13:28

‘False information’? Instagram censors claim that Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill led to ‘mass incarceration’ of black Americans

‘False information’? Instagram censors claim that Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill led to ‘mass incarceration’ of black Americans

Instagram has been actively censoring a meme about President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative record, after it flagged as “false” an artist’s post linking the ex-Senator’s 1994 Crime Bill to mass incarceration of black Americans.

The political meme, uploaded by Brad Troemel on Wednesday, shows an old photo of Biden and then-President Bill Clinton, along with a caption that reads: “Find someone that looks at you the way Biden looked at Clinton after Clinton signed Biden’s crime bill into law. Bringing mass incarceration to black Americans.”


The Facebook-owned platform quickly flagged Troemel’s image as “false information.” Instagram also cited “independent fact-checkers” from USA Today, who apparently “say this information has no basis in fact.” Thus, before being able to view the image, the platform requires users to first read a disclaimer, which links to a USA Today article allegedly debunking the claim that the 1994 crime bill led to mass incarceration of black Americans. 

The so-called “fact check,” written by Doug Stanglin and published in July, asserts that despite the Crime Bill being “a grab-bag of crime-fighting measures,” ‘mass incarceration’ actually began “in the 1960s” and is not a racialized phenomenon. 

Troemel’s interaction with Instagram was easy to verify, as the platform still almost immediately slams the “false information” label on a newly uploaded image. 

Yet, USA Today’s analysis appears to fly in the face of assessments by both left-wing and some conservative supporters of criminal justice reform.

The issue ultimately appears up for debate, with some critics saying that the Crime Bill contributed massively to mass incarceration, while others split hairs, saying it simply exacerbated an already ongoing trend.

Instagram’s move, however, was largely seen as overly-protective of Biden, with some even calling it political censorship.

Facebook spokesperson Stephanie Otway told the New York Post, that Instagram would not stop flagging the Biden meme, as long as the platform’s “fact-checking partners” keep the rating the same. The Post itself referred to the so-called fact-check as “hotly disputed.”

After his post was flagged, Troemel updated his Instagram bio to say he was "currently shadowbanned for criticizing Joe Biden."

In October, Biden himself admitted it was a “mistake” to support the bill, after facing renewed criticism over its impacts – and later reiterated the point during the final presidential debate against Donald Trump.

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