Flagged for publication on walrus meat? ‘Violations’ on social media are discriminatory, says former MPP from Nunavut

“My favorite dish! Morse! I’d pay anyone to get it!”

Former Nunavut MP Manitok Thompson was expressing her excitement on Twitter when the 12-word tweet was flagged for breaking the rules.

It was called “overly graphic media” and Twitter posted a warning saying that exposure to gratuitous gore can be harmful, “especially if the content is posted with the intent to revel in cruelty or sadistic pleasure”.

Thompson was in shock. She had to delete her post to stay on the platform.

“I wasn’t selling walrus meat, I was just posting about it asking if someone could bring me some meat and send it to me…” Thompson said in an interview with the CBC.

Former Northwest Territories Legislature Representative Manitok Thompson served as the new seal when Annie Pootoogook Park opened in 2021. (Submitted by Yoanis Menge)

It is not the first time that indigenous culture has been flagged as a violation on social media. Award-winning Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq has her Facebook account suspended after posting a photo with sealskin. Inuk craftsman Kenneth Mackay was denied a Facebook ad as their traditional Inuit knives were labeled as “weapons”. once in 2017and again in 2019.

Moderating social media content is not unique to Facebook and Twitter.

Popular Northern TikToker Hovak Johnston recently publicly discussed the elimination of his TikTok account due to high breach reports.

“Twitter and Facebook need to review their policies and stop discriminating against Inuit,” said Thompson, whose post was deleted on Oct. 19, a week before Elon Musk officially took over the social networking site.

More education is needed, says teacher

All social media platforms have their own version of community guidelines that describe what might be a violation, such as bullying, nudity, or violent content.

But simply sharing your life as an Indigenous person shouldn’t be so controversial, said Kim TallBear, a professor at the University of Alberta’s College of Indigenous Studies.

“We have known since the settlers arrived [to North America]they took offense at indigenous ways of life and sought to extinguish them – whether they extinguished them in real life or could they extinguish representations of them on social media,” TallBear said in an interview with CBC.

Flagged for publication on walrus meat?  'Violations' on social media are discriminatory, says former MPP from Nunavut
Kim TallBear, a professor at the University of Alberta. (Kim Tall Bear/Steinhauer Photography)

Part of the solution would be to attract more indigenous people to technology, said TallBear.

“It’s a shame the onus is still on us, but… really inappropriate content,” TallBear said.

Education is also key, the professor said, noting that workers on social media and technology platforms must have knowledge of race and indigeneity.

“The public education that most of us go through, K-12, there is very, very little treatment for these types of issues. So we have to deal with that in college, and even in those technical training programs that people attend,” says Big Bear.

Social media say moderation is not an exact science

Social media moderation is a mix of technology and human teams.

While TikTok says it strives to be an inclusive space for positive and creative expression, a spokesperson for the company acknowledged that neither technology nor humans make the right moderation decisions 100% of the time.

“Creators can appeal decisions they believe are incorrect directly in the app. If content or accounts were improperly deleted, the content will be reinstated and/or the penalty will be removed and will not affect the account going forward,” a TikTok spokesperson wrote. in an emailed statement.

Meanwhile, for Meta, formerly Facebook Inc., a spokesperson said the company wanted to help prevent species extinction.

“While we recognize that not all seal species or populations are endangered or threatened, some are. As a result, we apply a broad global standard to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable species are not put at risk,” a Meta spokesperson wrote.

Meta also noted that it regularly seeks input from Indigenous and Canadian peoples with unique needs so that the company can “take cultural and regional considerations into account when developing policies that impact our global community.”

Twitter representatives did not respond in time.

Double standard for content moderation

He feels targeted for being reported to the graphic media when the Inuit respect animals and the land, Thompson said.

“Our traditional law always says to kill soon, so the animal doesn’t feel… as you see with cows, chickens and pigs, they are tortured, they are in very bad shape.” [situation] in some cases,” Thompson said.

Two days after her original post was flagged, on an experimental basis, the former deputy posted pictures of animals at cattle farms on Twitter, but that post was never flagged as a violation.

Like Inuk, Thompson said he could never imagine putting an animal in this situation.

“Even seeing polar bears at the zoo and beluga whales — it hurts our inner being,” Thompson said.

The former deputy said she would like to meet with decision makers on Facebook and Twitter to showcase Inuit culture and create better understanding.

“Come into my kitchen.”

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