Instagram alters algorithm after complaints it censored Palestinian content during Gaza conflict

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(Getty Images)

Instagram has changed its algorithm after a group of employees complained that pro-Palestinian content was being hidden from other users in the midst of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that culminated in an 11-day conflict in Gaza.

The Verge reports that Instagram will now surface original and reposted content at the same rate, as it had previously surfaced original content before reposted.

As BuzzFeed News reported last week, employees at Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, complained that content featuring Arabic or pro-Palestinian content was often flagged or received a label warning.

“I fear we are at a point where the next mistake will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and we could see our communities migrating to other platforms,” one unnamed Facebook employee wrote to his co-workers.

A Facebook spokesperson told the Verge that the change in its algorithm was not entirely about pro-Palestinian content. According to the spokesperson, Facebook realized that bubbling content that it believes its users care about the most had made it appear as though the company was suppressing certain viewpoints.

“We want to be really clear— this isn’t the case,” the spokesperson told the Verge. “This applied to any post that’s re-shared in stories, no matter what it’s about.”

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, who is Israeli, acknowledged users in early May who complained they were unable to post pro-Palestinian content for several hours, tweeting, “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.”

The Facebook spokesperson said the original algorithm had been designed to show original content first because of users who said they were interested in seeing content from their friends first.

“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 Facebook spokesperson explained. “Stories that reshare feed posts aren’t getting the reach people expect them to, and that’s not a good experience.”

The company will be looking into new tools to allow for original content to be seen as it still believes users wish to see original stories more.

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