Instagram is making changes that might address censorship claims. The social network has confirmed to the Financial Times that it’s changing its algorithm to rank reshared posts in Stories on an equal level to originals after Palestinians accused the company of censoring content. A Facebook spokesperson told Engadget there was no intended censorship, and that the tweak was a response to overall problems with the reach of reshared content, not just Palestinian material.
There had been a broader increase in the number of reshared posts that had a “bigger impact than expected” on their reach, the spokesperson said. The representative added that it wasn’t what people hoped for, and it was “not a good experience.”
Instagram still wanted to focus more on originals, the Facebook spokesperson said, but it would be “looking for other ways” to highlight them, such as creative tools.
This change won’t resolve every concern about alleged censorship. Users said Facebook was flagging posts with words like “martyr” and “resistance” for reportedly inciting violence despite innocuous content, and was even removing posts about the al-Aqsa mosque (where clashes have taken place) after incorrectly linking it to the similarly-named coalition of extremists. The FT noted that “as many as 50” Facebook workers had frequently drawn attention to possible suppression of pro-Palestinian material, including over 80 appeals on automatically removed content.
The move could still have a significant effect on the kinds of Stories you see in Instagram. You may be more likely to see content for hot-button subjects. That might be problematic if people circulate misinformation (WhatsApp has been fighting this problem for years), but Facebook is clearly betting that equal rankings will ultimately help more people.
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