Instagram making changes to its algorithm after it was accused of censoring pro-Palestinian content

Filed in Blog by on May 30, 2021 0 Comments

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has changed its algorithm after a group of its employees reportedly complained that pro-Palestinian content was not visible to users during the Gaza conflict.

Instagram typically prioritizes original content over reposted content in its stories, but the company confirmed to The Verge on Sunday that it will begin to give equal weight to both.

According to BuzzFeed News and the Financial Times, the Instagram employee group had made a number of appeals regarding content that had been censored by Instagram’s automated moderation, such as posts about the al-Asqa mosque that had been mistakenly removed.

According to the Financial Times, the employees did not believe the censorship was intentional, but one stated that “moderating at scale is biased against any marginalized groups.”

According to a Facebook spokesperson in an email to The Verge, the change is not only in response to concerns about pro-Palestinian content, but the company realized that the way the app worked—bubble up posts that it believes its users care about most—led people to believe it was suppressing certain points of view or topics. “We want to be very clear—this is not the case,” said the spokesperson.

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“This applied to any post that was re-shared in stories, regardless of subject matter.”

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been chastised in recent weeks for how they have surfaced — or not surfaced — content related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier this month, Twitter restricted a Palestinian writer’s account, which it later said was done “in error.”

And Instagram ended up apologizing after many accounts were unable to post Palestine-related content for several hours on May 6th, a move that Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted was due to a “technical bug.”

Instagram says it has repeatedly heard from users who say they are more interested in seeing people who reshare other people’s photos and posts than they are in seeing original stories from close friends. According to the spokesperson, this is why it prioritized original stories.

“However, there has been an increase in how many people are resharing posts — not just now, but in the past as well — and we’ve seen a bigger impact than expected on the reach of these posts,” the spokesperson said. “Stories that reshare feed posts aren’t getting the reach people to expect, and it’s a bad experience.”

According to the spokesperson, Instagram still believes that users want to see more original stories and is looking into ways to focus stories on original content through new tools.

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