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Instagram now demotes vaguely inappropriate content

Instagram is home to plenty of scantily-clad models and edgy memes that may start to get fewer views starting today. Now Instagram says We have begun reducing the spread of posts that are inappropriate but do not go against Instagrams Community Guidelines. That means if a post is sexually suggestive, but doesnt depict a sex act or nudity, it could still get demoted. Similarly, if a meme doesnt constitute hate speech or harassment, but is considered in bad taste, lewd, violent, or hurtful, it could get fewer views.
Specifically, Instagram says this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages which could severely hurt the ability of creators to gain new followers. The news came amidst a flood of Integrity announcements from Facebook to safeguard its family of apps revealed today at a press event a the companys Menlo Park headquarters.
Instagram now demotes vaguely inappropriate content

Weve started to use machine learning to determine if the actual media posted is eligible to be recommended to our community Instagrams Product Lead for Discovery Will Ruben said. Instagram is now training its content moderators to label borderline content when theyre hunting down policy violations, and Instagram then uses those labels to train an algorithm to identify.
These posts wont be fully removed from the feed, and Instagram tells me for now the new policy wont impact Instagrams feed or Stories bar. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbergs November manifesto described the need to broadly reduce the reach of this borderline content, which on Facebook would mean being shown lower in News Feed. Thats policy could easily be expanded to Instagram in the future. That would likely reduce the ability of creators to reach their existing fans, which can impact their ability to monetize through sponsored posts or direct traffic to ways they make money like Patreon.
Instagram now demotes vaguely inappropriate content

Today Facebooks Henry Silverman explained that As content gets closer and closer to the line of our Community Standards at which point wed remove it, it actually gets more and more engagement. Its not something unique to Facebook but inherent in human nature. The borderline content policy aims to counteract this incentive to toe the policy line. Just because something is allowed on one our appsdoesnt mean it should show up at the top of News Feed or that it should be recommended or that it should be able to be advertised said Facebooks head of News Feed Integrity Tessa Lyons.
This all makes sense when it comes to click bait, false news, and harassment which no one wants on Facebook or Instagram. But when it comes to sexualized but not explicit content that has long been uninhibited and in fact popular on Instagram, or memes or jokes that might offend some people despite not being abusive, this is a significant step up of censorship by Facebook and Instagram.
Creators currently have no guidelines about what constitutes Borderline Content theres nothing in Instagrams rules or terms of service that even mention non-recommendable content or what qualifies. The only information Instagram has provided was what it shared at todays event. The company specficied that violent, graphic/shocking, sexuall suggestive, misinformation, and spam content can be deemed non-recommendable and therefore wont appear on Explore or hashtag pages.
Instagram now demotes vaguely inappropriate content


Instagram denied an account from a creator claiming that the app reduced their feed and Stories reach after one of their posts that actually violates the content policy taken down.
One female creator with around a half-million followers likened receiving a two-week demotion that massively reduced their contents reach to Instagram defecating on them. It just makes it like, Hey, how about we just show your photo to like 3 of your followers? Is that good for you? . . . I know this sounds kind of tin-foil hatty but . . . when you get a post taken down or a story, you can set a timer on your phone for two weeks to the godd*mn f*cking minute and when that timer goes off youll see an immediate change in your engagement. They put you back on the Explore page and you start getting followers.
As you can see, creators are pretty passionate about Instagram demoting their reach. Instagrams Product Lead on Discovery Will Ruben said regarding the feed/Stories reach reduction: No, thats not happening. We distinguish between feed and surfaces where youve taken the choice to follow somebody, and Explore and hashtag pages where Instagram is recommending content to people.
Instagram now demotes vaguely inappropriate content

The questions now are whether borderline content demotions are ever extended to Instagrams feed and Stories, and how content is classified as recommendable, non-recommendable, or violating. With artificial intelligence involved, this could turn into another situation where Facebook is seen as shirking its responsibilities in favor of algorithmic efficiency but this time in removing or demoting too much content rather than too little.
Given the lack of clear policies to point to, the subjective nature of deciding whats offensive but not abusive, Instagrams 1 billion user scale, and its nine years of allowing this content, there are sure to be complaints and debates about fair and consistent enforcement.
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