Instagram is filled with black squares today. It’s a powerful image, but one that has also drawn criticism and caution from those it is intended to support.
The Blackout Tuesday, or Black Out Tuesday, movement is a spinoff of “The Show Must Be Paused” campaign started by music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang. They wanted their industry to “take a beat for an honest reflective, and productive conversation,” according to the campaign’s website, as a way to mark the lives lost and to show support for the ongoing George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests. As Rolling Stone reports, the campaign has resulted in some controversy, but musicians including Rihanna, who also paused sales at Fenty, and Drake joined the blackout on Tuesday, posting blank squares to their accounts.
As the symbolic show of support spread across Instagram people attached the #BlackLivesMatter or #blm hashtag to the blacked out images. The popularity of the online symbol quickly overwhelmed those two hashtags and made it challenging, for protesters and activists to use those hashtags to gather information about police actions and protest movements and share important resources.
“Stop posting black squares under the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram,” wrote Twitter user Anthony James Williams. “It is intentionally and unintentionally hiding critical information we are using on the ground and online … Tell me how this helps Black folk. It doesn’t, and it in fact makes things a lot worse. Tell your friends and fam to stop.”
Now, Kehlani, Lil Nas X, and many others are using their platforms to point out the problem and asking supporters to stop using those two hashtags.
A simple fix—and one that many on the sites are suggesting—is for social media users who want to post a black screen and support the movement to remove the #BLM and #BlackLivesMatter hashtags from their posts.