Instagram Investigating Its Algorithm And Policies For Bias Against Black Users
Instagram is investigating its algorithm and policies to prevent bias against its black users.
The review comes after questions were raised over whether the social media platform suppresses the black community’s voices, and whether its current policies treat them differently.
Following the concerns, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has addressed the issue and explained how those at Instagram plan on tackling it.
In a statement posted to Instagram’s blog, he said:
It starts with accounting for the experiences and challenges that underrepresented groups, such as our Black community, face when they use Instagram. We’ve done a lot of work to better understand the impact our platform has on different groups, and that’s helped us get to where we are today.
Mosseri also dubbed the concerns as ironic because Instagram is ‘a platform that stands for elevating Black voices’. He added that he understands that many are users are often harassed, that they are afraid of being ‘shadowbanned’, and that people often disagree with the platform’s content takedowns.
Shadowbanning is the act of blocking a user’s content on social media sites, in such a way that the user doesn’t know it’s happening. If you’re shadowbanned on Instagram, it means your content won’t appear on anyone’s feeds unless they already follow you.
One way people may get shadowbanned is by using the same hashtag frequently, using banned hashtags or for exceeding Instagram’s posting limits – things Black Lives Matter campaigners may currently be doing to get their voices heard.
To ensure black voices are being heard on the platform, Instagram is looking into four key areas of its product to see if the black community is being disproportionately negatively affected: harassment; account verification; distribution; and algorithmic bias. It has also created its own hashtag, #ShareBlackStories, in a bid to encourage people to do so.
In regards to harassment, Mosseri said Instagram will do ‘any work to address the inequalities black people face has to start with the specific safety issues they experience day to day, both on and off platform’.
Mosseri stated that account verification is a topic the teams at Instagram constantly get questions on, and that they are now making changes to make verification ‘as inclusive as possible’.
The platform is also going to review how its content is filtered on the explore and hashtag pages to ‘understand where there may be vulnerability to bias’, and are aiming to be clearer with its decisions when it comes to how peoples’ content is distributed.
Finally, explaining the changes that will be made about Instagram’s algorithmic bias, Mosseri said:
Some technologies risk repeating the patterns developed by our biased societies. While we do a lot of work to help prevent subconscious bias in our products, we need to take a harder look at the underlying systems we’ve built, and where we need to do more to keep bias out of these decisions.
As it stands, Instagram’s most-followed black celebrities are Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj, who sit in ninth and sixteenth respectively in the most-followed accounts ranking.
Here’s hoping these changes happen soon to help more black voices to be heard.
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