Ensuring Black Voices are Heard

By Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram — Posted on June 15, 2020

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen an incredible movement happening around the world. As these important conversations have come to our platform, we’ve seen communities on Instagram mobilizing to demand justice and express solidarity, support Black-owned businesses, elevate Black voices, and raise awareness for the equality of Black people everywhere.

At the same time, we’re also hearing concern about whether we suppress Black voices and whether our products and policies treat everyone equally. The irony that we’re a platform that stands for elevating Black voices, but at the same time Black people are often harassed, afraid of being ‘shadowbanned’, and disagree with many content takedowns, is not lost on me. This is a moment when people around the world are rightfully demanding actions over words, and we owe the same to our community.

It starts with accounting for the experiences and challenges that underrepresented groups, such as our Black community, face when they use Instagram. We’ve done a lot of work to better understand the impact our platform has on different groups, and that’s helped us get to where we are today. But I think there’s more to do across some key areas, which fit into our broader company commitments. We need to better support the Black community within our own organization, as well as on our platform.

One of the ways we’ll do this is by taking a harder look at how our product impacts communities differently, specifically around:

  1. Harassment: Any work to address the inequalities Black people face has to start with the specific safety issues they experience day to day, both on and off platform. Then we need to address potential gaps in how our products and policies protect people from those issues.
  2. Account verification: We’re looking into our current verification criteria and will make changes to ensure it’s as inclusive as possible. Verification is an area we constantly get questions on – what the guidelines are, and whether or not the criteria is favoring some groups more than others.
  3. Distribution: We’ll review how content is filtered on Explore and Hashtag pages to understand where there may be vulnerability to bias. On top of that, we need to be clearer about how decisions are made when it comes to how people’s posts get distributed. Over the years we’ve heard these concerns sometimes described across social media as “shadowbanning” – filtering people without transparency, and limiting their reach as a result. Soon we’ll be releasing more information about the types of content we avoid recommending on Explore and other places.
  4. Algorithmic bias: Some technologies risk repeating the patterns developed by our biased societies. While we do a lot of work to help prevent subconscious bias in our products, we need to take a harder look at the underlying systems we’ve built, and where we need to do more to keep bias out of these decisions.

This work is going to take some time, but we’re going to provide updates over the next few months – both about what we learn and what we address. These efforts won’t stop with the disparities people may experience solely on the basis of race; we’re also going to look at how we can better serve other underrepresented groups that use our product. In the last year alone the feedback we've received from communities like LGBTQ+ groups, body positivity activists, and artists has helped us build a more inclusive product.

Our goal is that Instagram is a place where everyone feels safe, supported, and free to express themselves, and I’m hoping this work will get us closer to that goal.