July 28, 2022
When we established the Equity team, we wanted to understand how people from historically marginalized communities experience Instagram. For the last two years, we prioritized extensive research to better understand the concerns raised by these communities, and we made significant improvements in our products as a result. However, if we don’t know people’s race or ethnicity, we’re limited in our ability to assess how our products impact different communities.
To better understand different experiences people may have on Instagram we need to collect and measure demographic information, like race and ethnicity. Starting today, we’ll ask a random assortment of people on Instagram in the United States to participate in an optional survey where they can share this information.
Over the next few months, people on Instagram in the United States may see a prompt asking them for their race or ethnicity. This leads to a survey hosted by YouGov, an international research group that helps companies securely run surveys. Individual, de-identified responses are collected by YouGov, encrypted, and split into parts to be stored across partner research institutions. Instagram will only have access to aggregated information, which means we can’t connect people or their Instagram accounts to their individual responses. More details on how this methodology works are available in our technical paper.
We’re working with Texas Southern University, University of Central Florida, Northeastern University, and Oasis Labs as partner research institutions. These institutions will receive the split, de-identified responses from YouGov, and then share an aggregated analysis with Instagram. Neither Instagram nor the institutions will be able to connect responses to individuals or their Instagram accounts.
“The method used by Meta to analyze how people of different races and ethnicities interact with Instagram is very secure,” said Dr. Zhishan Guo, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCF, one of the research universities partnered with Meta. “User responses are encrypted and split apart, with distributed algorithmic computations and data storages at different institutions, so no one can link survey responses to Instagram accounts.”
“Our mission is to provide the most honest and accurate data through transparent, fully-permissioned interactions with consumers around the world. We are excited to use this capability to help Meta better understand the experiences different communities have and build more equitable products.” — Stephan Shakespeare, CEO, YouGov
“Texas Southern University is proud to join the Meta Civil Rights Team to be positioned at the intersection of technology and urban research. Our faculty and team members in TSU’s Division of Research and Innovation, along with our other schools and colleges, will collaborate to ensure this partnership is a success to benefit communities of color.” — Michelle Penn-Marshall, VP for Research and Innovation at Texas Southern University
This information will allow us to better understand the experiences different communities have on Instagram, how our technology may impact different groups, and if there are changes we can make to promote fairness. For example, the analysis we conduct with this information might help us better understand experiences different communities may have when it comes to how we rank content.