Update to Tranmere Fans regarding EFL Instagram Post of 23rd May
On Saturday 23rd May 2020, a post was sent out from the EFL’s Instagram channel which referenced Tranmere Rovers’ promotion from League Two to League One in 2019.
Comments are enabled by default on any Instagram post and screen shots show that at least 12 messages were left on the Tranmere post during the course of the morning on Saturday 23rd May.
By 11am on that day, the Club has screenshots to show that the comment button on the Tranmere Post had disappeared. Tranmere fans realised that they could not comment on the post and alerted the Club to this, and fans quickly started to express their anger at this on social media.
By around 12 noon, the Club has screenshots to show that the comment button on the Instagram post had reappeared, but the comments which had been left early morning had disappeared.
After Tranmere complained to the EFL, no further comments (so far as we are aware) disappeared.
Tranmere requested the EFL to clarify why the ability to comment had been disabled and why comments which had been left had been deleted. The EFL initially stated that they were not aware of any issue with the Tranmere Post, and had not at any stage taken any action to either remove the ability to comment, or to delete comments. Later that day, they suggested to us that a technical upgrade being made on the previous night could have caused the problem.
On the same day, we were advised by a journalist that he had been told by a member of the EFL’s communications team that there had been a problem with the Tranmere Post, but that they had fixed it. The journalist kept written notes of that conversation.
The Club did not think that it was plausible that the Tranmere Post could have been impacted in the way described above by a technical upgrade at the EFL, and was also concerned at the inconsistency in explanations and therefore requested the EFL to investigate further.
Although it may not at first sight seem a particularly important matter, it was regarded as such by the Club given that at the time the controversial EFL proposals to end the season using PPG had just been announced, and the Club felt it was fundamentally important to allow free debate and comment in the lead up to the vote. Given that Tranmere would be relegated if PPG was used to end the season, and that of all clubs in the entire EFL Tranmere was the club most disadvantaged by the EFL’s proposals, it was to be expected that the Tranmere post (which referenced our promotion to League One) would attract a great deal of comment.
The EFL have confirmed to us that it is their policy to allow comments on all EFL posts and not to censor any content other than that which might violate the platform’s general community rules.
The EFL has conducted a review, at Tranmere’s request, into what happened and following that review has suggested 4 possible explanations:
- Deliberate manual intervention by an EFL employee or other person with editorial rights over the EFL’s Instagram account. The Club and the EFL both accept that it is possible to disable comments on a post, to re-enable them, and to delete individual comments by manual intervention. However, the EFL have questioned all of their relevant employees and they have all stated that they did not make any manual intervention. The EFL has said it accepts the assurances made by its employees;
- Accidental manual intervention by an EFL employee or other person with editorial rights over the EFL’s Instagram account. Given the number of steps involved in disabling and reenabling the ability to comment, and deleting comments which had been posted, the EFL and Tranmere both agree that this is not a plausible explanation;
- A technical issue at Instagram causing changes to be made without any intervention by anyone. Instagram have confirmed that it is “highly unlikely” that a technical issue could have caused the issue and that, whilst it cannot be categorically ruled out, it can be said with “a high degree of certainty” that a technical issue was not the cause; or
- Unauthorised access to the EFL’s Instagram account (ie a hacker). The EFL have confirmed there is nothing to indicate that the account was subject to any unauthorised access.
The EFL’s conclusion, based on their employees’ assurances, is that their investigation is inconclusive and accordingly no action is required.
The Club regards this as a highly unsatisfactory outcome. Whilst the Club accepts that it cannot be conclusively proved that it was not a technical issue at Instagram, the Club regards it as so unlikely that it should be discounted. This is because:
- Instagram received no notifications from any other user that there were problems of this nature on that day;
- none of the EFL’s other posts on the same day suffered the same issues;
- the “glitch” would have had to have made a series of changes to the Tranmere Post over a period of hours, rather than one single error; and
- we would have to believe that the series of changes made by the technical glitch coincidentally occurred at times such that they appeared to respond to social media messages from our fans (for example, when comments were made that comments were disabled, the comment functionality reappeared within less than an hour, and when a complaint was made regarding comments being deleted, they then stopped being deleted).
The Club’s view is that the only plausible explanation is manual intervention by a person with access to the EFL’s Instagram account. We are therefore disappointed not to have received any acknowledgment from the EFL that this is the most likely scenario, nor any apology for the apparent breach of EFL’s policy on censorship.