Scientists found that with just 2 interactions on a teenage Instagram account, the posts recommended in the news feed changed dramatically, potentially leading to inappropriate content.
For more than 3 years, 5 Rights Foundation has been fighting to guarantee the safety of minors on the internet and social networks. To do this, the association commissioned a study, conducted by the agency Revealing Reality, aimed at recreating the experience of a child on Instagram.
Scientists then adopted the mystery shopper technique. They created various profiles that reflected real children and then followed the same accounts as the teen volunteers. After liking a handful of posts, they were able to observe some changes within the “explore” tab of the social network.
This space highlights content that the user could possibly like. The section is different for all users, since it is calculated by an algorithm that analyzes the activity of the Internet user: it takes into account the publications that the Internet user has liked, shared, commented on, and / or saved, as well. , Instagram may offer similar content.
With the profile created in the name of a 17-year-old girl, the researchers liked a photo posted by a sports brand offering ideal clothes for slimming that appeared in the “explore” tab. Then they followed an account offering pre / post diet overviews.
These two actions were enough to radically change the Explore section of the fake teenager.
Scientists found that his news feed featured more and more content related to weight loss tips, exercise, and bodybuilding.
Instagram was showing “Noticeably thin and in some cases apparently altered / distorted body shapes” they explained
In view of these results, the director of the association 5 Rights said that the social problems presented by some adolescents could be stimulated by these recommendation engines used by social networks such as Instagram.
An investigation quickly denied by Facebook, owner of Instagram, which says more aggressive measures to keep teens safe have already been put in place.
In its speech, Facebook also questioned the methodology of the study, deemed too imperfect, according to them. He declares that it is not possible to “Drawn sweeping conclusions about the overall experience of teens on Instagram from a handful of avatar accounts”.
They add that the “recommended” content according to the study was in fact actively sought after by scientists.
A study that comes at a delicate time for social networks like Instagram. As next September, businesses will face a tough new set of age rules coming into force in the UK. Companies targeting children will have to present a version of their website or application suitable for children.
A new bill is also under construction, providing for fines of up to 10% of global revenue for companies that fail to keep promises made in their moderation guidelines and terms of service.