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Instagram to Review Whether Its Practices and Policies ‘Suppress Black Voices’

Todd Spangler

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Instagram is “taking a harder look” at how the photo and video sharing app affects different communities, starting with Black users, according to the app’s top executive, Adam Mosseri.

In a blog post Monday, Mosseri said Facebook-owned Instagram has been “hearing concern about whether we suppress Black voices and whether our products and policies treat everyone equally.”

While Instagram — with more than a 1 billion monthly users — is “a platform that stands for elevating Black voices,” he wrote, at the same time “Black people are often harassed, afraid of being ‘shadowbanned,’ and disagree with many content takedowns.”

Instagram is reviewing four areas of potential concern for how the app specifically affects Black users, according to Mosseri: harassment; account verification (with plans make changes to “ensure it’s as inclusive as possible”); distribution (how content is filtered on Explore and Hashtag pages to determine where there may be vulnerability to bias); and algorithmic bias.

On the subject of distribution, Mosseri said, over the years Instagram users have raised concerns about “shadowbanning,” in which the reach of posts is limited without explaining the methodology. “Soon we’ll be releasing more information about the types of content we avoid recommending on Explore and other places,” the exec wrote.

After examining how Instagram’s policies and products affect Black users, the service will also look at how it can improve serving other underrepresented groups. Mosseri said feedback  in the past year from communities like LGBTQ+ groups, body-positivity activists, and artists “has helped us build a more inclusive product.”

“This work is going to take some time, but we’re going to provide updates over the next few months – both about what we learn and what we address,” Mosseri said.

Separately, Instagram on Monday announced a new feature to make it easier to create fundraisers for organizations supporting racial justice. Users can now tap on the “Donation “sticker in Instagram Stories to pull up a a new “Act for Racial Justice” section that will highlight the ACLU, the Bail Project, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Innocence Project and the Marshall Project.

Mosseri, a longtime Facebook exec, took the helm at Instagram in October 2018 after co-founders CEO Kevin Systrom and CTO Mike Krieger exited over disagreements with Facebook’s leadership over the strategic direction of the social app.