Instagram is still trying to become less biased

Is that even possible? Who knows. Here’s how they're trying.

by Roisin Lanigan
10 September 2020, 4:16pm

We already spend a significant portion of days scrolling mindlessly on Instagram and curating our lives to fit the app’s aesthetic. And thanks to an unprecedented cocktail of events this year, most of us have turned to social media more than ever to stay informed and connected to each other, even when we can’t be together physically. Despite the utopian vision of social media that might conjure up, however, the reality is a little darker, with bullying, harmful content and racial bias littering the social media platforms we use so often.

Instagram has at least made a concerted effort to break down that toxic environment. Earlier this year they pledged to ban pro-conversion therapy content, hide doctored images, as well as making a change in comment curation to crack down on negativity and bullying. Now, as misinformation around the pandemic and the upcoming US elections continues to build on the internet, they’re going further, with the development of a dedicated “Equity Team” to attempt to combat internal bias in the app’s algorithm.

“More than ever, people are turning to the platform to raise awareness for the racial, civic and social causes they care about,” Instagram said in a statement. To that end they’ve set up the Equity Team along with a “Responsible AI team” to make sure their algorithm is both fair and increases representation for minority communities and creators. Part of this comes as part of a change in how Instagram accounts are verified. In an attempt to make the process fairer, verification will now come from notability (the app will look for press articles about the people applying, and those sources will now include more Black, LGBTQ+ and Latinx media sources). Its previous focus on follower count has now been nixed.

As per their previous announcements, they’re also further reviewing their policies on online harassment, racism and bigotry. “We updated our policies to more specifically account for certain kinds of implicit hate speech, such as content depicting blackface, or stereotypes about Jewish people,” Instagram’s blog post goes on. “We also strengthened enforcements against people who make serious rape threats, and we’ll now disable any account that makes these threats as soon as we become aware of them, rather than just removing the content.” About time!

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