Users searching Instagram for #JoeBiden might also see results for #joebiden2020, as well as pro-Trump hashtags like #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica.
A similar search for #DonaldTrump on the platform, however, provided a totally different experience. Besides showing 7 million posts tagged with the president’s name, Instagram did not present any related hashtags that would have pushed users toward different content or promoted alternative viewpoints.
At first glance, I would have assumed that a persons own preferences and habits would be what's swaying the results one way or another. We are working within an algorithm that's trying to predict what you're most likely to consume, after all.
The difference between these two results, which an Instagram spokesperson told BuzzFeed News was a “bug,” prevented hashtags including #Trump and #MAGA from being associated with potentially negative content. Meanwhile, Instagram hashtags associated with the Democratic presidential candidate — #JoeBiden and #Biden, for example — were presented alongside content that included overtly pro-Trump content and attacks on the former vice president.
As the article points out, how well is Facebook prepared to handle the next US presidential election? If we have learned anything in 2020 (or history for that matter) is that we can each be better at listening and understanding opposing viewpoints.