Why some users are upset with Instagram’s new 'sensitive content' feature?

Instagram's new 'Sensitive Content Control' feature  

In July, Instagram Inc introduced a feature that allowed its users to choose content they wish to see on their Explore feeds. The 'sensitive content control' setting was launched to reduce hate speech, bullying, and harmful content on the platform.

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However, the Facebook-owned company faced backlash from certain users as they saw the feature limited reach of creators’ posts by adding an unnecessary layer of censorship to what they may want to share on the platform.

User reactions

“With recent changes, Instagram now automatically blocks even more 'sensitive content'. Unfortunately, the automatic pattern recognition designed to detect offensive images does NOT work well,” said one user in an Instagram post. The feature had flagged the user’s posts of animals and illustrations of non-humanoid aliens for “nudity”, and even had posts of landscapes flagged as “inappropriate”.

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Another user said that the change in Instagram’s algorithm has also restricted the reach of informational posts due to political biases. “You never know what’s deemed offensive these days. I've drawn animal pictures before and it was flagged as inappropriate,” the post said.

Several users even reported engagement on their posts dropping as much as 90% after the feature was introduced. “Obeying the guidelines has done absolutely nothing to protect my account from repeated nonsensical visibility restriction,” a user said, adding that artist and curator pages are particularly vulnerable to automatic content filters.

Many creators have also urged their followers to remove any filter applied to block certain types of posts, as well as continue engaging with their accounts by commenting, sharing, and saving posts.

What Instagram classifies as ‘sensitive’

Instagram recognises three main categories of content that may impede the platform’s “ability to foster a safe community”. This includes graphically violent content like people fighting, sexually explicit or suggestive media such as pictures of people in see-through clothing, and content promoting the use of certain regulated products like tobacco, adult services and drugs.

The photo-sharing platform further added that sensitive content can be thought of as posts that don’t necessarily break the platform’s rules but could be potentially upsetting to some people, such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent.

Responding to criticism

In June, Instagram stated in the blog post it does not have one algorithm, but a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.

“People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them,” it added.

The social network took to Twitter in July to clarify how the feature works, stating that filtering sensitive content on Explore feeds isn’t new.

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“Contrary to some posts we’ve seen recently, we would never consider content sensitive simply because it was shared by a Black, Indigenous or LGBTQ2S+ creator, or by any underserved group; we absolutely want these voices on Explore,” it said in a tweet.

Past actions

The incident is hardly the first time Instagram has been accused of restricting post engagement. Several users over the years have complained the viewership on their posts have dropped dramatically within days.

In fact, some users have also expressed resentment towards Reels, Instagram’s TikTok-like product, stating the company aggressively promotes trending Reels while other photos and videos witness poor viewership.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 12:01:45 PM |

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