It may sound like a ridiculous rumor, but countless screenshots of the new "Mute White People" sticker on Instagram will tell you that it's very real.
On June 13, 2020, conservative commentator Katie Pavlich revealed a screenshot of the new button on Twitter and said: "Instagram has a “mute white people” button in stories." It was enough to spark backlash from a number of users who felt the sticker was racist. Meanwhile, others believed that the sticker was simply encouraging white people to check their privilege by making space for Black voices.
Since then, there's been an ongoing debate about the controversial sticker, but was it officially made by Instagram? How did the platform respond to these reactions? Here's what we know.
Instagram did not make the "Mute White People" sticker.
Instagram stickers have always been seen as a fun way to make Stories more vibrant and interactive, but this definitely wasn't the case for "Mute White People." After it got shared by Katie on Twitter, it was quickly discovered that the original button was taken from Giphy.com, where it was originally created by Refinery29 as the "Unbothered Sticker."
Due to all the negative responses, the original Unbothered GIF has since been deleted and replaced by a dancing woman on Giphy, but it's unclear whether Refinery29 added the button to Instagram themselves. Regardless, it gained tons of popularity alongside their other "Black Girl Magic approved" stickers, including "Canceled" and "Pay Black Women."
Many users were not happy with the sticker's message.
Katie's initial tweet was met with several angry responses from fans, and many have gone as far as to call out Instagram directly and demand that they remove it. Especially since the platform has mentioned that they stand against racism.
The backlash sparked a conversation about the platform's questionable search results for white and Black people, which caused some users to accuse Instagram of "promoting racism." On the app, if you search through the GIF options, you might notice that the first results are generally positive for "black people." But when "white people" are looked up, the first results tend to focus on white privilege.
A user named Duke said, "Look at the choices. Search “white people” and you get white privilege, thumbs down and “mute white people.” Search “black people” and you get hearts, flags and inspirational messages."
Others have also taken issue with the fact that the sticker seems to contradict the message that white silence is harmful to the Black community. In response to a user who supported the sticker's message, one commenter said, "There are a few street corner protesters in my town. One of them holds the same sign every week: "White silence is white violence." Seems contradictory to the Mute White people thing. I guess they just prefer we disappear?"
A petition was started to remove the sticker from all platforms.
A petition was created on Change.org to have the sticker removed from all social platforms, including Snapchat. So far, it has 105 out of 200 total signatures.
The description reads, "In a time where we preach for equality, having a sticker that states “mute white people” is not the way to create equality and simply opens up more possibilities for racism. Being a white person, I feel attacked for no real reason, and I think this sticker should be removed from all apps and social media.
Some people spoke in defense of the "Mute White People" sticker.
While countless people considered this sticker insensitive, others believe that it wasn't a big deal, mainly because it targets a privileged group, rather than those who are oppressed. In fact, some people have responded to common concerns by explaining why a sticker that pointed to another group would be way more problematic.
One user, Tyz, explained, "The replies that say 'what if we said mute black people??' You mean like when you guys constantly scream All Lives Matter when we say black lives matter? Or when you say 'get over slavery'? Or when you say '#backtheblue blue lives matter?'"
Another user, Ellie Price, tweeted, "Jokes that come from the oppressor about the oppressed are not jokes because they come from real beliefs, so yeah ‘mute black people’ would be racist, ‘mute white people’ is not because it’s not a reality. Same as ‘men are trash’. It’s simple."
Instagram and Snapchat have taken the sticker down.
It's safe to say that these platforms wasted no time in taking action. Although they haven't publicly addressed the whole controversy, they quietly removed the sticker option. Neither Giphy nor Refinery29 have spoken out about the issue, but most users are counting this as a victory.