Instagram Quietly Limited Users’ Ability to See “Political” Content

Graphic design showing the Instagram interface and its new automation of limiting political content

Yes, Your Setting Was Changed Too

Luz Media

Update: This article was updated on June 26, 2024, to include additional details about issues Instagram users have with the political content settings reverting to their default limitations.

On February 9th, 2024, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri quietly announced through a thread post that Instagram and Threads would be moving away from actively recommending political content. Mosseri shared that the platforms would be transitioning towards a new system where political content would become opt-in by default. Meta defined political content as “content [that] is likely to mention governments, elections, or social topics that affect a group of people and/or society at large.”

With such a broad definition, users who want to continue seeing anything deemed “political” in their feeds would have to adjust their settings accordingly.

Users can still follow profiles they prefer, but Meta's algorithms will limit the exposure of political content from profiles the user doesn’t follow unless users manually enable the “Don’t limit” option in their preferences. Despite Mosseri specifying "accounts" in the announcement, the limitation will only apply to political content that would appear in suggested content areas like the explore tab, reels, and suggested users. Overall, users weren’t happy.

User @bevdid expresses her opinion on Threads platformComment by @bevdid on Threads

User @rafacst expresses his opinion on Threads platformComment by @rafacst on Threads

This is a reflection of Meta’s overall goal of prioritizing entertaining content over news. This shift has been quietly in the works for a while, with Mark Zuckerberg making his intentions clear in an interview with The Verge back in 2023. While this change to Instagram and Threads allegedly seeks to make interactions less divisive, it severely affects every personal or media account that shares political content and news, effectively limiting their reach.

For creators who share this type of content to raise awareness, advocate for social issues, inform and educate, and drive social action, this creates a big hurdle in reaching a wider audience outside their follower base.

Despite the announcement that the changes would be rolled out over time, the public hasn’t exactly been kept in the loop. As it turns out, the opt-in feature has already been launched and the default setting is set to “limit” political content. In other words, all Instagram accounts have been converted to the new setting, and users are using their accounts without many knowing their content is now limited.

"Content Preferences" interface on Instagram

To find the feature and disable it, users have to:

  1. Go to their profile using the iOS or Android app.
  2. Tap more options in the top right, which is the icon with the three horizontal lines.
  3. Scroll down and tap “Suggested content.”
  4. Tap “Political content” and then check the “Don’t limit” box so they “might see more political or social topics” in their suggested content

Image shared by user @ykreborn on the Instagram platform

Image shared by user @ykreborn on Instagram

The feature isn’t easy to find. Even after following the above directions, several Luz staff members had to use the search function, using “suggested content,” to finally find the setting.

In recent developments, Instagram users are reporting that their political content settings are reverting back to their default state even after disabling them. Some users report that the settings switch from "Don't limit political content from people you don't follow" to "Limit political content from people you don't follow" immediately after closing the Instagram app and opening it back up. Other users report that their settings switch to the default "Limit political content from people you don't follow" at an unspecified point in time after they disable the feature. In other words, users have to constantly adjust their political content settings to reflect their preferences.

The political content policy doesn't state that the disabling of political content limitations is temporary, so users are at a loss as to why their settings keep reverting to the default option. As of June 26, 2024, neither Instagram nor Meta have released a statement about this issue or any statement regarding an update to their policies for political content. As part of our commitment to providing accurate and comprehensive information, Luz Media has reached out to Instagram's press inquiry department. At the time of this update, we haven't received a response yet.

While on the subject of content settings, it’s also important to be aware of Instagram’s Fact-Checked Control. The platform claims a commitment to reducing the spread of false information by using third-party fact-checkers or their own technology to identify and mark false information. When false information is found, the algorithm makes it harder for people to see.

Users have control over how fact-checked content appears in their feed from the creators they follow. Fact-Checked Control is set to “Reduce” by default, which means content considered false or altered will be shown less. This limits content reach even further. To change this setting and have greater access to content, users have to go into their settings, tap “Content preferences,” and then select the level of fact-checking they want. By selecting “Don’t reduce,” no content will be moved lower in the feed, allowing users to see all content.

"Content Preferences" interface on Instagram

Reportedly, the “Content preferences” option is not available to everyone, not even if searched within Instagram’s settings. Some users say they’re able to find the setting for political content limitation, but not the setting for fact-checking, while others do have access to both. Users are encouraged to explore their settings thoroughly and decide what kind of content they want on their feed, rather than have Meta decide for them.

Update Details: On June 26, 2024, we included a new section on the reported issues Instagram users have with their political content settings reverting to the default "Limit political content from people you don't follow" even after disabling it.

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