Instagram has tweaked its algorithm after a number of employees reportedly complained that the company was censoring pro-Palestinian content amid the ongoing violence in Gaza.
The Facebook-owned company asserted that its algorithm previously prioritised original content in its stories, rather than re-shares, seemingly blaming this for the censorship allegations. However, Instagram confirmed on Sunday that it would now revert to prioritising stories in chronological order.
The move comes after BuzzFeed News reported that a group of employees had repeatedly flagged that content was being censored by the app’s automatic moderation system.
According to BuzzFeed News, an employee flagged the issue after Al Aqsa Mosque had its hashtag removed for reportedly being associated with “violence or dangerous organisations”.
While the group of employees behind the complaints didn’t believe the alleged censorship was intentional, one employee told the Financial Times that “moderating at scale is biased against any marginalised groups”.
Instagram has since altered the algorithm, but stressed to The Verge that the app was not suppressing certain viewpoints.
“We want to be really clear — this isn’t the case,” a spokesperson told The Verge, confirming that the algorithm change wasn’t a direct result of the Palestinian content issue. “This applied to any post that’s re-shared in stories, no matter what it’s about.”
Basically, Facebook said that the issue with pro-Palestinian content simply shed light on an issue with how the basic algorithm functioned — which has now been resolved.
The explanation comes after the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, said that a separate error which saw users unable to post Palestinian-related content for hours on May 6 was a technical bug, unrelated to the conflict.
Many people thought we were removing their content because of what they posted or what hashtag they used, but this bug wasn’t related to the content itself, but rather a widespread issue that has now been fixed.
— Adam Mosseri ???? (@mosseri) May 7, 2021
Speaking with The Verge, Instagram said that users are more interested in seeing content from close friends, rather than re-shared content, and will work to find a happy medium that balances both types of content moving forward.
“But there’s been an increase — not just now but in the past as well — in how many people are resharing posts, 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 expect them to, and that’s not a good experience.”
Gizmodo Australia has reached out to Instagram for comment.