Instagram Recommends Sexually Explicit Reels To Teens: Report

A new report has recently revealed concerning insights about the Instagram Reels algorithm. It shows that teenage users are frequently recommended sexually explicit and harmful videos. Wall Street Journal in collaboration with Northeastern University computer science professor Laura Edelson conducted the study. It sheds light on serious child safety issues on the famous social media platform, Instagram.

Alarming Findings on Instagram Reels Algorithm

The research was based on setting up new minor accounts and observing their interactions with Instagram Reels feed over seven months. By consciously skipping over “normal” content and engaging more with subversive adult videos, the accounts quickly became flooded with promotions for “adult sex-content creators“. Moreover, it started showing nude photos. Disturbingly, it took only 20 minutes of scrolling for these accounts to be dominated by explicit content.

Instagram has the strictest content control limits for accounts marked as minors. However, the study shows that these measures are insufficient. It is pertinent to mention that this experiment replicates findings from former company safety staff in 2021, who discovered that Instagram’s universal recommendation system sabotaged child safety measures. Even though, some internal documents from 2022 disclosed that Meta was aware its algorithm was recommending more pornography, gore, and hate speech to teenagers compared to adults.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone stated:

“This was an artificial experiment that doesn’t match the reality of how teens use Instagram. Meta has been working to reduce the volume of sensitive content seen by teens on Instagram and has made meaningful reductions in recent months.”

Interestingly, similar tests on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat did not yield the same results. It clearly suggests that Instagram’s algorithm may be particularly problematic. A November report found that Instagram’s Reels algorithm was suggesting sexually explicit content to adult users following child accounts, further underscoring the platform’s vulnerabilities.

The report follows a February investigation by the Wall Street Journal, which demonstrated that Meta staffers had warned the company about exploitative parents and adult account holders benefiting from images of children online. Additionally, Meta has encountered numerous lawsuits related to child exploitation. The latest is the December lawsuit blaming the company for creating a “marketplace for predators.”

This report emphasizes the urgent need for Instagram to address the shortcomings in its content recommendation system. Providing a safer online environment for teenagers is critical. The platform needs to vigilantly monitor its content to protect young users from explicit and harmful videos.

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Laiba Mohsin

Laiba is an Electrical Engineer seeking a placement to gain hands-on experience in relevant areas of telecommunications. She likes to write about tech and gadgets. She loves shopping, traveling and exploring things.

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