Study: Instagram Algorithm Favors Posts of Scantily-Clad Women

LOS ANGELES—Instagram has long put on a public face of opposition to sexual, or even sexually suggestive content on its Facebook-owned social media platform, even reportedly deleting accounts held by 1,300 adult performers last year.   But new research into how the site’s algorithm operates shows that in reality, Instagram not only encourages users to post photographs of themselves in various states of undress, it forces them to, if they want to achieve maximum engagement on their posts. Researchers from the organization Algorithm Watch, in collaboration with the European Data Journalism Network, have published a new study titled Undress or fail: Instagram’s algorithm strong-arms users into showing skin.  “Instagram prioritizes photos of scantily-clad men and women, shaping the behavior of content creators and the worldview of 140 millions Europeans in what remains a blind spot of EU regulations,” the study’s authors reported. An “algorithm” is basically a set of instructions that causes a computer to perform a specific task. On social media sites, algorithms determine which posts appear more prominently in users feeds. Posts which appear higher in feeds generally receive higher levels of user engagement, such as “likes,” clicks, and comments.  When the Germany-based data research nonprofit studied posts from 37 Instagram content creators, measuring how their posts performed in the feeds of 26 volunteer users, they found that photos of women posing in bikinis or underwear were 54 percent more likely to appear in Instagram feeds than other types of posts. The algorithm also favors men who pose in states of undress, though not as heavily as it favors women. Men who posted shirtless pictures of themselves were 28 percent more likely to appear in Instagram feeds. By contrast, photos depicting food or landscape photography struggled for recognition, being 60 percent less likely to appear in the volunteers’ Instagram feeds. The findings come about a year after Instagram announced that it was taking measures to suppress just such scantily clad pics. The social media site claimed that it would now penalize any type of “inappropriate” content, even if it did not violate the platform’s rules against nudity or clearly sexual content. “This type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages,” the site said in a 2019 announcement. “We’ve started to use machine learning to determine if the actual media posted is eligible to be recommended to our community.” But according to the new study, exactly the opposite has happened. Posts depicting women and men wearing only minimal attire are actually significantly more likely to appear in user feeds. The researchers analyzed 2,400 photos from 1,737 posts, finding only 21 percent depicted women or men in their undergarments or skimpy swimwear. But those posts made up 30 percent of all photos appearing in user feeds. Photo by Tofros.com / Pexels 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: Study: Instagram Algorithm Favors Posts of Scantily-Clad Women | AVN