Instagram is the latest social media platform to have its algorithms accidentally promote hate speech and fail to filter it out. The social media platform used an offensive photo that read, “I Will Rape You” to advertise itself on Facebook, according to The Guardian.
Guardian reporter Olivia Solon recently learned that Instagram was advertising itself with a screenshot she had taken of a hateful email she had received that read, “I will rape you before I kill you, you filthy whore!” The subject line of the email was “Olivia, you fucking bitch!!!!!!!!”
Instagram reportedly turned the screenshot into an advertisement displayed to Solon’s sister on Facebook with the line, “See Olivia Solon’s photo and posts from friends on Instagram.” The photo was posted on Instagram and Facebook almost a year ago and received three likes and more than a dozen comments on Instagram, which was enough social engagement to trigger Instagram’s algorithm.
Last week, Facebook, which owns Instagram, came under fire for allowing advertisers to target users interested in the “jew hater” and “how to burn jews” categories that some listed on their profiles. In response to the complaints, the social media platform restricted the interests users can list to meet community standards and added more human oversight to the automated processes. “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us,” Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a post yesterday.
Although this is only one instance of Instagram promoting offensive content, it suggests that Instagram’s algorithms may not be set up to filter out hateful images and could be mistakenly posting other hateful messages as ads elsewhere online. Instagram responded with a statement: “We are sorry this happened — it’s not the experience we want someone to have. This notification post was surfaced as part of an effort to encourage engagement on Instagram. Posts are generally received by a small percentage of a person’s Facebook friends.”