Instagram cracks down on ‘inappropriate’ content

Instagram is making changes to its recommendations.
Instagram is making changes to its recommendations.

Image: carl court / Getty Images

Instagram is taking new steps to limit the reach of content it deems “inappropriate.”

The app will no longer recommend content that’s “inappropriate,” in its app, even if it doesn’t explicitly break Instagram’s rules, the company announced Wednesday. The changes come amid a series of updates from Facebook to “manage problematic content across the Facebook family of apps.”

For Instagram, this means the company is taking new steps to limit the kinds of content that can appear in the app’s recommendations in the Explore tab or on hashtag pages. 

“For example, a sexually suggestive post will still appear in Feed if you follow the account that posts it, but this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages,” Facebook writes in a statement

Other types of content that may be excluded include posts that are spammy, violent, or “sexually suggestive.” Instagram will still remove posts that it finds to break its rules, but the exclusions from recommendations will apply to more borderline content that doesn’t rise to the level of a removal, but may otherwise be considered “low quality.” 

At a press event at Facebook’s office, Instagram product manager Will Ruben noted that people who choose to follow accounts that share these types of posts will still be able to see them in their feed or in Stories, and that the changes announced today only apply to “discovery” pages like explore or hashtag pages.

Ruben said the company is being “careful about how we define what’s non-recommendable,” and that the new changes will only affect certain categories of content. He said the company also takes past behavior into account when determining which accounts should be barred from recommendations. So if a person has a post removed for violating Instagram’s rules, their posts will be blocked from recommendations for a specific period of time.

Instagram's examples of the types of content that will now be excluded from recommendations.

Instagram’s examples of the types of content that will now be excluded from recommendations.

Image: karissa bell / mashable

But the changes could still become controversial among Instagram users, some of whom have long suspected the company “shadow bans” certain accounts — the idea that the app purposely makes certain users less visible in the feed or elsewhere for breaking one of its rules. (Ruben stressed that Instagram does not down-rank users’ posts in Instagram’s main feed or in Stories.)

Many creators rely on the Explore page and hashtag pages to expand their reach, and Instagram’s method for determining its top recommendations is a frequent topic of discussion among influencers and creators.

The changes to Instagram come amid a host of other updates to how Facebook approaches “problematic content,” a term that covers harassment, fake news, and clickbait across all its services.

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