According to a blog post published today by the firm, Instagram will start requesting race and ethnicity information from a subset of US users in order to research how various demographic groups utilize the site.
Randomly selected Instagram users will get a pop-up in the app that directs them to a YouGov poll that asks about their race and ethnicity. It’s optional to respond to the questions, and Instagram claims that doing so “won’t limit your experiences on Instagram, including having an influence on your reach or how others connect with your material in any way.”
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri stated in a video message that the platform will utilize the data to find ways to make Instagram better for users.
“We need to understand how it is functioning for different populations if we’re going to make sure that Instagram is fair and equal as an experience,” he adds.
The data will be de-identified, divided, and kept across a few academic institutions, including Texas Southern University, University of Central Florida, Northeastern University, and Oasis Labs, after the user replies have been gathered. According to Instagram’s blog post, the firm will only get aggregated data from the collaborating universities and individual comments won’t be connected to user accounts.
According to the blog post, “this information will help us better understand the experiences that various communities have on Instagram, how our technology may affect certain groups, and whether there are any improvements we can do to encourage justice.” The research we perform using this data, for instance, “could help us better understand experiences different groups may have when it comes to how we rank content.”
Instagram established an equity team in 2020 with the goal of examining its algorithms for racial prejudice. Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, said last autumn that it was developing a means to gauge “how individuals from underrepresented areas perceive Meta technology.”
There are countless media reports on how platforms have allowed for discrimination, and civil rights organizations and other activists have long urged Facebook and other social media platforms to look at how their systems affect people of color. For instance, The Washington Post reported in 2021 that officials at Meta resisted at an ambitious strategy aimed at eradicating the “worst of the worst” hate speech, despite internal evidence indicating the company’s mechanisms for removing hate speech disproportionately hurt Black users.