Instagram Algorithm Test Says App Shows Sexual Content to Teen Accounts; Meta Dismisses Claim

By Trisha Andrada

Jun 21, 2024 07:02 AM EDT

News that Instagram often suggests explicit content to underage accounts was denied by Meta, saying it doesn't reflect the reality. (Photo : Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

A report surfaced on Thursday, June 20, alleging that Instagram often suggests explicit videos to adolescent users. In response, Meta denied the allegations, claiming that the experiment does not reflect the "reality."

Instagram Algorithm Test

Over the course of seven months, researchers from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and an academic institution discovered that Instagram Reels almost instantly delivered explicit content to accounts that claimed to be 13 years old.  

Teen accounts that showed an interest in explicit videos were then sent to increasingly inappropriate content, including those produced by adult sex-content creators.    

According to WSJ, comparable findings were found in internal testing and an investigation that Meta previously carried out.

Read More: New York Set to Ban Social Media Algorithms for Youth Without Parental Consent

'Artificial Experiment'

Andy Stone, a representative for Meta, issued a statement claiming that WSJ's study was an "artificial experiment" that does not match the reality of how teens use the social media app.  

Stone told The Hill that the company is committed to constantly improving its policies and has teams specifically devoted to making sure teenagers view material that is suitable for their age, even when they first sign up.

He added that Instagram had made significant progress in reducing the amount of mature content teens may view on the platform in the previous several months as part of its ongoing work on concerns about youth app usage.

In January, Meta changed its strategy for teen accounts, concealing anything that was improper for their age and automatically assigning them to the most stringent content control settings.  

READ MORE: Meta Halts EU AI Model Rollout Amid Privacy Concerns, Regulatory Pressure

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