Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Earlier this week, a search on Instagram for #JoeBiden would have
surfaced nearly 390,000 posts tagged with the former vice
president’s name along with related hashtags selected by the
platform’s algorithm. Users searching Instagram for #JoeBiden
might also see results for #joebiden2020, as well as pro-Trump
hashtags like #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica.
A similar search for #DonaldTrump on the platform, however,
provided a totally different experience. Besides showing 7 million
posts tagged with the president’s name, Instagram did not present
any related hashtags that would have pushed users toward different
content or promoted alternative viewpoints.
Maybe it was an honest bug, maybe not. But Facebook’s institutional credibility is so low it’s hard to take them at their word. And then there’s this response from Instagram’s official comms team, on Twitter:
This isn’t about politics. Tens of thousands of hashtags were
affected, and your story cherry-picked a handful of those
thousands to fit a sensational narrative. The bug was also not
partisan, as you note #democrats was impacted.
Via Parker Molloy, who notes that this combative tone — expressly impugning Mac’s integrity — is not how Facebook/Instagram has ever responded to accusations of bias against Republicans.
Whatever you think about the purported bug — and as skeptical as I am about Facebook, I actually think there’s a good chance it really was just a bug — this response from their comms teams is the real eye-opener.
Update: Also note that Instagram accuses Mac of “cherry-picking” for singling out the Biden/Trump differences. They know those are the only two candidates. How can it be “cherry picking” to compare how Instagram is treating the only two major presidential candidates? What the hell kind of bushel only has two cherries to choose from? And you can’t argue that it was about cherry-picking hashtags, not candidates, when the core hashtags in question were “#JoeBiden” and “#DonaldTrump”.
★ Friday, 7 August 2020