Instagram recommendations pushed users toward Covid misinformation, anti-vaccine content and anti-Semitic material during the peak of the pandemic, according to a report by a social media watchdog.
The Center for Fighting Digital Hate (CCDH) found that new Instagram accounts were displaying substantial amounts of misinformation through the platform’s algorithmic recommendations, including the “explore” page and the “suggested post” feature, which It was introduced in August 2020 and offers new posts for users who have scrolled through all of their friends’ content.
Misinformation was most frequently displayed to new users who followed a combination of accounts on the platform that included leading anti-vaccination personalities or wellness influencers, according to the CCDH report, Malgorithm. Volunteers who followed 10 accounts with anti-vaccine links, for example, received recommendations for posts promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Numerous publications stated that “there was no pandemic”, and others asked people to “stop getting tested” and “stop wearing the mask.”
“It is incredible that as the pandemic swept the world, Instagram launched a new feature that encourages users to see conspiracy theories and lies about Covid and vaccines,” said CCDH Executive Director Imran Ahmed. “This feature was created in the name of profit, to keep people scrolling and to be able to serve them more ads.
“Algorithms that recommend content are the act of an editor, making decisions about what readers see, not a neutral platform. This has serious legal and regulatory implications for social media companies and demonstrates their responsibility for harm to people and society. “
Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement that the research was outdated and misleading. “We share the goal of reducing the spread of misinformation, but this research is five months out of date. It also uses a sample size of just 104 posts, compared to the 12 million pieces of harmful vaccine and Covid-19 misinformation that we have removed from Facebook and Instagram since the start of the pandemic, “said a spokesperson.
“We have focused on connecting people with credible information, which is why we have directed more than 10 million searches so far related to Covid-19 and vaccines to authoritative health sources such as the NHS and government websites. We are also working on improvements to Instagram search, to make accounts that discourage vaccines more difficult to find. “