On Wednesday, Aug. 5, social media users began to notice something very strange. The hashtag #savethechildren — which has often been used to promote posts that bring awareness to child sex trafficking — had apparently been blocked by Facebook. Naturally, this raised some eyebrows. Why would Facebook block a hashtag that’s used to save children?
As it turns out, the answer is pretty complicated. It’s also worth pointing out that Facebook now appears to have unblocked the hashtag (although some people are still having trouble accessing posts using the tag). Here’s what we know.
Why is #savethechildren blocked on Facebook?
It didn’t take long for people to notice that when they typed the #savethechildren hashtag in on Facebook’s search bar, they were met with a message saying that posts using that tag had been temporarily hidden because some of them went against Facebook’s Community Guidelines.
On its face, #savethechildren seems like a great hashtag that everyone would want to get behind. Obviously, child sex trafficking is a horrible and very real problem, and all decent people do want to save as many children from it as possible.
Unfortunately, though, not all posts using the #savethechildren hashtag were spreading true or useful information. The tag has long been co-opted by QAnon conspiracy theorists who believe, among other things, that many liberal Hollywood actors and Democratic politicians are members of a satanic child sex trafficking ring.
The result is that some posts using the #savethechildren hashtag on Facebook are actually about saving children from horrific situations, while other posts are full of unsubstantiated claims that just muddy the waters and make it more difficult for the important work to get done.
Upon noticing that the #savethechildren tag was blocked on Facebook, many people took to Twitter to discuss the issue. Most people appeared to be horrified that Facebook would block such an important tag. Some even took it as a sign that Facebook was in on the conspiracy.
It can be tricky to wade through all of the conflicting information regarding the #savethechildren tag — no one wants to be a person who doesn’t support saving children, after all. However, in a time where dangerous conspiracy theories often find their footing via viral social media posts, it’s more important than ever to be very discerning when taking in new information.
Using a hashtag is certainly one way to effectively spread a message, but there are other things you can do if you really want to help beyond clicking the “Share” button. For instance, you can look into the actual, on-the-ground work that is being done by organizations such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children or the Save the Children charity and donate your money and/or time to supporting them.
From what we can tell, Facebook is no longer blocking the #savethechildren tag. That doesn’t mean that every post using it can now suddenly be trusted, but hopefully, it eases some people’s concerns about the supposed censorship of important issues.