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London’s Free Palestine protest 20
Photography Nahwand Jaff

Instagram alters algorithm after accusations of pro-Palestine censorship

The app previously ranked original Stories over reposted content like infographics, but has now vowed to show more viral current affairs posts

Instagram has tweaked its Stories algorithm after at least 50 staff members alleged that pro-Palestine content was not being seen by users during Israel’s recent violence in Gaza.

Until now, the social media app has prioritised original content in its Stories feature over posts reshared from other people, including infographics raising awareness about current affairs. As reported by the Financial Times, Instagram will now rank original and reposted content equally, which will help breaking news reach more people.

Speaking to the newspaper, an Instagram spokesperson said there had been an increase in people posting about the situation in Gaza, but that the app’s algorithm had a “bigger impact than expected” on how many people saw these posts.

“Stories that reshare feed posts aren’t getting the reach people expect them to, and that’s not a good experience,” the spokesperson added. “Over time, we’ll move to give equal weighting to reshared posts as we do to originally-produced stories.”

The spokesperson defended Instagram against accusations that it was deliberately censoring pro-Palestine content. “(The algorithm had) caused people to believe we were suppressing stories about particular topics or points of view,” they said. “We want to be really clear – this isn’t the case. This applied to any post that’s reshared in Stories, no matter what it’s about.”

One of the employees who urged the platform to change its algorithm told the Financial Times that “moderating at scale is biased against any marginalised groups”. As reported by TIME, Instagram’s algorithm had labelled words frequently used by Palestinian users, like “martyr” and “resistance”, as incitements to violence. 

Back in February, Instagram announced that it was trialling a new feature that would disable users from resharing feed posts onto their Stories. The proposal was widely criticised, with many condemning the impact a ban would have on artists, small businesses, and activists, as well as citing the feature as a source of valuable resources. With this new announcement, though, it seems the feature is set to stay.

Look back at Dazed’s guide on how to talk about Palestine here, and meet the creators of some of last summer’s viral anti-racist Instagram infographics here.