In February, Meta announced their continued approach to limiting political content on Instagram, Threads, and Facebook feeds. Previously, users could leverage the algorithm to disseminate political messages and reach a wider audience — but this dialect began to blur with disinformation and disruption. 

Meta announced the automatic removal of pieces of political content in users’ recommended feeds. If users still want the content suggested to them, they must manually change their content preference settings.

According to data from QuestBrand by the Harris Poll, as Instagram navigated its presentation of political content, positive recommendations and emotional perceptions from users saw several shifts.

Conflicting Feeds Shift User Engagement

Following the Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, the world sought out social media channels to provide live updates, visual content, and any news on the conflict. Instagram became a primary hub for people to share personal stories and perspectives regarding the Israel-Hamas war.

Political content quickly populated within the app. While real imagery was shared, a collection of misinformation surfaced as well. Some users claimed Instagram was “shadowbanning” their posts and the algorithm was inherently biased.

On November 1, 2023, U.S. adults who have used Instagram within the past 30 days recommended the platform with a +48.2 score. Shortly after, on January 1, 2024, that score dropped to +35.3. Instagram then began to crackdown on censorship.

Instagram Users Who Positively Recommend Instagram – Oct 2023-May 2024 -12 Week Trended Average

QuestBrand. 10/1/23-5/28/24. Base: General population of US adults, n=1,436. Base: US adults who have used Instagram within the past 30 days, n=902.

“People have told us they want to see less political content, so we have spent the last few years refining our approach,” said Meta in its release. “At the same time, we’re preserving your ability to find and interact with political content that’s meaningful to you if that’s what you’re interested in…” 

Content Crackdown Rewrites User Perceptions

On Feb. 9, Instagram detailed how the app would be managing and recommending political content moving forward. 

Following this release, there’s been a significant spike in active Instagram users who recommend Instagram, jumping from 30.5 Pre February 9, 2024 to 38.6 in the Post period. Additionally, the quality score from these active users shifted from 48.9 to 58.6 during the same timeframe.

As users navigated their newly filtered feeds, mixed opinions surfaced. Despite outwardly opposing feedback, the Pre 10/23 to Post 2/9 period showed a significant shift in how Instagrammers’ describe the platform.

Change in How Instagram Users Describe the Platform Pre Vs Post Release

QuestBrand. Pre: 10/1/23-2/8/24, n=482. Base: US adults who have used Instagram within the past 30 days. Post: 2/9/24-3/31/24, n=207.

Instagram users significantly more often described the platform as confident (+10.3), socially-conscious (+9.7), stylish (+7.2), and smart (+10.4) after the release.

As Instagram has altered its algorithm showcasing political content, we saw a positive uptick in Instagram users recommending the platform to others. With the upcoming election, it will be interesting to see how Instagram serves as a platform for political discourse and information dissemination.


Olivia Woodring

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