Instagram Provides an Update on Its Efforts to Address Systemic Bias Within its Systems

Back in June, as the #BlackLivesMatter movement was gaining momentum following the death of George Floyd, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri posted an impassioned video response, in which he pledged to do more to address systemic bias, which, Mosseri noted, would include a review of ‘all of our practices and products and policies’ in order to improve Instagram’s systems.

This week, Instagram has provided an update on its progress on this front, with several key developments that have been implemented as a result of this renewed focus.

Instagram Equity Team

First off, Mosseri has announced the development of a new ‘Instagram Equity Team’ which will focus on understanding and addressing bias in all aspects of Instagram’s development.

“The Equity team will focus on creating fair and equitable products. This includes working with Facebook’s Responsible AI team to ensure algorithmic fairness. In addition, they’ll create new features that respond to the needs of underserved communities.”

In addition to this, Instagram is also hiring a new Director for Diversity and Inclusion for Instagram to help develop its systems and processes to be more inclusive moving forward.

Hate Speech Policy Updates

Mosseri also notes that Instagram has updated its policies around hate speech to cover more specific threats and concerning behavior.

“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. 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 removing just the content.”

In addition to this, Mosseri also notes that Facebook has increased its action against hate groups, including the recent crackdown on QAnon groups and Pages across both Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram has also expanded its warning prompts on comments which could be considered offensive to those posted during Instagram Live broadcasts. Instagram first added these warnings for post comments in July last year

Verification Criteria

Instagram has also updated its verification criteria in order to open it up to people from different communities.

“An account must meet certain criteria before we verify it, including a degree of notability. We measure notability through press articles about the person applying for verification. We’ve now expanded our list of press sources we consider in the process to include more Black, LGBTQ+, and Latinx media.”

That will provide more opportunity for people in underserved communities to gain Instagram verification, while Instagram has also removed audience size as a qualifer for verification requests.

Distribution Guidelines

Lastly, in the midst of the main #BlackLivesMatter protests, Instagram had been accused, at one stage, of censoring discussion around the protests because its systems had incorrectly registered the sudden influx of #BlackLivesMatter posts as spam.

Instagram has repeatedly reiterated that this was not a deliberate attempt to limit the related discussion, and to further clarify, Facebook recently published a full overview of all the topics and themes which are ineligible to be highlighted within its various discovery surfaces.

The listing covers all the content that Facebook and Instagram seek to restrict, and why, providing more insight into its internal processes in this respect.

There’s still a long way to go in addressing societal inequity, and given the significant role they now play in facilitating connection and sharing, social platforms have a big part to play in addressing such. Which is why these new measures from Instagram are important, and it’s good to see the social giants continuing their work on this element, keeping it in focus and top of mind.   

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