Update July 14: Today Instagram announced that it has now removed the sticker.
A new sticker has begun to go viral on Instagram and has raised eyebrows from some users. The sticker is called the “Unbothered” sticker and says, “Mute white people.”
The sticker was created by Refinery29 who uploaded the GIF to the GIPHY platform for people to use and has therefore made it available on Instagram stories. Both GIPHY and Instagram are owned by Facebook.
Refinery29 is a Buzzfeedy type media company that’s aimed at young women and has several GIFs on GIPHY, many of which make political and cultural statements.
GIPHY’s moderation page suggests that all GIFs that are on the platform have had to go through a moderation process. “To ensure that GIPHY stickers will always be fun and safe no matter where you see them, we have an enhanced moderation process for approving stickers into our library,” the page reads.
The appearance of the sticker on Instagram, especially from a verified GIPHY contributor, has been getting a lot of attention. Political commentator Ashley StClair called the sticker “racist.”
Donald Trump Jr sarcastically said, “Remember, it’s not racist if it’s racist against white people.”
While the GIF is innocuous, non-violent, and shouldn’t be a problem in a free society, the appearance of the GIF has highlighted what appears to be a double standard in the way Big Tech platforms moderate. There are questions about whether the sticker would have passed the moderation process if it were aimed at any other race, and it’s for this reason it’s getting criticism – more so than the message of the sticker itself.
There has been an incredible suppression of free speech across social media in recent times, especially around issues such as race, and there have been many suggestions that the blanket of restrictions haven’t applied evenly and that statements against white people aren’t as heavily policed.
Reddit, for example, faced backlash in the last month when it said that “hate speech” would be allowed if directed at those who are in the “majority.” Reddit soon backtracked once the implications of this faced pushback.