Instagram defends using Swastika in its filter after outrage, says it 'doesn't violate' policy

Instagram defends using Swastika in its filter after outrage, says it 'doesn't violate' policy
Sabrina Zohar was shocked to find a swastika in the 'Old School' filter (Instagram/ sabrina.zohar)

An Instagram filter that features ‘Swastika’ has sparked outrage after users called it out for being anti-Semitic. The filter is named “Old School” and lets users take selfies while giving an impression that their skin is inked with a number of colorful tattoos including snakes, a Native American headdress, the words “pray for me” and what seems to be a swastika.

According to reports, a California clothing designer Sabrina Zohar was the one who noticed it while she was using the filter. The 31-year-old, who has over 17,000 followers on Instagram, was shocked when she took a selfie and found that the filter in the app’s Effect Gallery made her arms look like she got tattooed with the Nazi symbol. “This sh*t has to end, not just for Jews but for everyone. Hitler and then nazis is not a joke or passive topic so let’s stop pretending it’s okay,” Zohar wrote on her page.


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“I understand what the symbol stands for and the multiple meanings. But as someone that is Jewish, it’s hard to be reminded of the symbol that is so in your face,” she told The New York Post via email. Zohar reported the filter and also urged her followers to do the same.

But Instagram has reportedly not taken down the filter created by Anastasia Truita Tkachenko, a Russian. A spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said the feature “does not violate our policies”. The social networking service also added that swastika “can be used in cultural context that predates Nazism”, but there is no plan to take it down. Tkachenko has also defended the symbol by saying that it is a Slavic sign and “symbolizes good, the sun and life”. She also explained how her creation is different from the Nazi swastika as it tilts its bent arms in a different direction — counter-clockwise — than the controversial one.

Elana, a social media manager from New York City, also asked her 55,700 Instagram followers to report the filter to the Anti-Defamation League. The 29-year-old stated: “As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor… I can not begin to tell you how triggering these images are to me. Growing up, I promised my family members to do everything in my power to ensure that something as horrific as the Holocaust never happens again. And I plan on continuing to keep that promise to them for as long as I have to.”

Jonathan A Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, also expressed his views on the whole matter. He said, “This is yet another example of Facebook falling down on moderating even obvious anti-semitism on their platforms and is further evidence of their need to invest more heavily in content moderation as they expand to new forms of content. This symbol should have been caught in any review that Facebook undertook when approving various user created Instagram reel effects if they were centering the impact these filters could have on vulnerable and marginalized groups.”

Meanwhile, it's known that swastika is a symbol of peace in several religions, including Hinduism and Jainism, but Zohar mentioned the “majority of people know that symbol to represent one thing". “In a world where we are so sensitive to so many things, why is this just casually included on a filter? We should all just be more aware of what is harmful to one another,” she added.

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