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Instagram Draws Criticism For Suggesting Negative Hashtags About Biden While Hiding Any Related To Trump

Instagram Draws Criticism For Suggesting Negative Hashtags About Biden While Hiding Any Related To Trump
NurPhoto/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Instagram is being widely criticized after it was revealed a "bug" in the program would show users negative hashtags related to Joe Biden if they searched for #JoeBiden while the same did not happen to people searching #PresidentTrump.

The app, which is owned by Facebook, uses an algorithm to suggest new content to its users.

For several months, however, it's been suggesting pro-Trump messaging to Joe Biden fans while searches related to Trump hashtags like #MAGA return only posts with those tags.

Searches for #JoeBiden earlier this week also turned up posts with the hashtags "#trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica."

Searches for "#Trump or #MAGA," meanwhile, showed only pro-Trump content.

Many online believe this is the latest in a long line of times major social media companies have dropped the ball when it comes to election interference.

Katie Paul, from the Tech Transparency Project, who first noticed the "glitch," commented:

"What we've seen with the related hashtags with Biden is that there is so much vitriol, that it appears to be benefitting President Trump...[it] removes any possibility that negative hashtags could be associated with his name or campaign slogans."

Raki Wane of Instagram described the issue as a "bug" and said:

"A technical error caused a number of hashtags to not show related hashtags. We've disabled this feature while we investigate."

When asked about the issue, a Trump campaign spokesperson used this mistake (which benefitted the Trump campaign) to claim that social media giants are biased against conservatives.

"Social media companies' biases consistently make the strongest arguments for the President's Executive Order on Section 230 reform. It's preposterous that Silicon Valley, the bastion of diversity and liberalism, is terrified of intellectual diversity and conservative voices."

Nina Jankowicz, who works as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, commented:

"This feature doesn't just benignly increase engagement. It can lead to a tipping of scales in terms of equitable discourse."

Jankowicz said Instagram should be using additional human review to combat misinformation during the election season.

"In times of crisis or volatile times ahead of an election, this stuff should be going under constant human review. It shouldn't be left up to a computer code to direct people's consumption during a time like this."