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Nigeria Terrorist Attack Video Restored on Instagram

A previously removed video of an attack at a church has been restored after the user appealed to Meta's Oversight Board.

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A video of the Nigerian church attack has been restored on Instagram
Image: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Meta’s Oversight Board restored a video of the Nigeria church attack on Wednesday showing motionless bodies on the floor, covered in blood. The video, shared on Instagram, had ultimately been removed because the hashtags the user added could be portrayed as glorifying the attack and minimizing the suffering the people endured.

A report from Meta’s Oversight Board said the hashtags were “primarily about recreational weapons, allusions to the sound of guns firing, and military equipment and simulations.” The Meta Media Matching Service bank for the Violent and Graphic Content policy alerted the company to the video and it was removed for violating the policy.

The Board reported that by the time the video was removed, it had been viewed more than 6,000 times. Following Meta’s decision, the user appealed to the Oversight Board, asking for the content to be restored. The board found that comments made on the post included “prayers and statements about safety in Nigeria,” and the hashtags had been attached to other posts the user uploaded.

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The video appears to be the aftermath of the attack in Owo, Nigeria on June 5, when gunmen entered a Catholic church, attacking dozens of people and leaving at least 40 worshippers dead, including children.

In the hours following the attack, survivors posted videos of the aftermath, showing the bodies and family and friends crying out in response. Nigerian authorities arrested five suspects in August and have accused insurgents from the Islamic State of carrying out the heinous act.

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The inquiry into the post found that restoring the content is consistent with “Meta’s Community Standards, values, and human rights responsibility,” the board wrote in a news release.

It added that it is increasingly important to show the video because “Nigeria is experiencing an ongoing series of terrorist attacks and the Nigerian government has suppressed coverage of some of them, though it does not appear to have done so in relation to the June 5 attack. The Board agrees that in such contexts freedom of expression is particularly important.”

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The Board said in the case of the hashtags, they found that they raise awareness and are not sadistic, as Meta had first stated. They requested that Meta restore the video and said its decision was unanimous that a “disturbing content” disclaimer should be added, warning viewers and protecting the victims’ privacy.

Further recommendations to Meta included reviewing the language in the Violent and Graphic Content policy and notifying users when a warning screen is applied to their video.