Sometimes, through circumstances beyond our control – and quite frankly, usually through our own ignorance (willful or otherwise) – we are confronted with the necessity of taking down content from our channels because of problematic viewpoints or source materials. It happens.
And while it is not realistic for us to know everything about everything, as the common saying goes, when we know better, we do better.
When you should take down content
In general, when through your own reading, education, and consumption of current events and history – or more often – when a reader, friend, or the general public informs you your content is problematic, you should, at the very least, stop and listen.
While it is super hard to face the prospect of wronging folks with our actions, push past that discomfort.
It is okay to make mistakes.
How we respond to hurting people, though, is important. When we injure someone with our actions, it is our responsibility to listen to how we harmed them, apologize, and if possible, repair the wrong.
Here is a quick checklist that I have found helpful to determine whether or not I should take down content entirely, or otherwise amend the content with updated information.
Pause and listen
Whether it is the actual people you are harming through your content, or allies informing you of the injury, If your immediate response is to reject or diminish the harm, pause and think about why you might be doing so.
Consider the following:
What is the harm being discussed? What are the people being injured saying about your content (or similar content)?
Are the people being harmed part of an underrepresented or minority group?
Are the people dismissing the harm part of a group that has historically oppressed the group being harmed?
Are you a person being directly (and negatively) affected by the harmful content (other than it being your content)?
Google the subject being discussed. Typically, even a minimal effort and search will bring up a ton of results. Read them – especially focusing on the viewpoints and articles written from the folks being harmed. Spend even 15 to 20 minutes getting a rough overview of the topic at and or any underlying topics.
Ask for help from people already doing the work (and not from the folks being harmed)
This is important: do NOT ask for help from the people being hurt by your content.
One, because they have already been harmed by you, (whether that was your intent or not doesn’t matter); even pointing out what was problematic cost them a lot of emotional and physical labor. Two, because they don’t owe you anything; it is your job to do the necessary work.
Granted, it can be super intimidating and hard – but that’s why it’s called work
If you have a group of trusted individuals who are also doing the work of being an activist, run your concerns and questions by them, asking what they would do in your position. If they are able and willing, ask if they have additional resources you can explore, if they can provide feedback on the offending content, as well as any response you provide.
Resist the urge to cover-up
We’re all human. In the best of circumstances, it is difficult to admit when we are wrong – let alone in a situation where we have created and/or proliferated offensive content in the capacity of an influencer.
Let us normalize admitting to our mistakes. Let us normalize apologizing and then repairing the harm.
Let us normalize putting in the work.
How (and if) to address content removal
If you do decide to delete or edit your content, the next thing to decide is if you intend to address the removal or changes. While it may be enough just to take something down or update quietly, as influencers, we have a rare opportunity to model learning and allyship to both our audiences as well as fellow industry colleagues. Plus, people will notice anyway and it’s much easier to make a statement ahead of time versus making a statement in a reactionary state.
If you do decide to address the removal or editing of content, here are some things to consider.
State clearly the offense/mistake/problem
What was the problematic content? Why was it problematic? Who informed you about it? if you name individuals, please seek their permission first for their privacy and protection.
As much as possible, center the voices of the wronged party.
Quote the harmed folks and their explanations. Screenshot or embed social posts that explain the situation and harm. Amplify the voices of folks who have already been doing the work.
Apologize. State what you learned and what you did to repair or rectify the situation.
Though it will be tempting to defend yourself, refrain from doing so. The purpose of this portion is to accept responsibility for your actions and detail how you will act moving forward.
Offer possible ways for your audience to support the folks who have been harmed.
Again, as much as possible, center the voices and solutions provided by the people being wronged.
How to take down content
If you are on social media sites, you can just delete your content or posts in order to limit further harm and grief they cause.
You can then add a new post addressing the removal if that’s what you decide to do.
If the content is on your blog or site, you can either edit the post to include the apology and your reasons for removing the original post, or you can write an entirely new post and redirect URLs to this new post.
You can also edit the original post and write an entirely new post addressing the situation at length.
While informing your audience of your changes and mistakes may seem like a lot more effort than just quietly deleting and hiding the original posts, remember that actual humans and persons were harmed by your actions.
Yes, it is so hard to admit we’re wrong and made mistakes. Yes, it’s annoying to “waste” all that sunken time and resources and effort we put into the original post. You’re allowed to feel that.
But you know what’s harder and more annoying? Being constantly reminded that who you are isn’t valued, that your pain isn’t taken seriously, heard, or acknowledged.
That you, your people, or people who are like you, don’t matter – and worse, don’t deserve to live and love in peace and joy, with the expectation of safety and justice.