Hand holding phone with instagram app(l), Meta text(r)

Wichayada Suwanachun/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Instagram opted all users out of seeing political content—a day before the first presidential debate

Instagram also changed its ‘political content’ policy in February.


Tricia Crimmins


This morning, Meta, Instagram’s parent company, opted all Instagram users out of seeing political content from accounts they don’t follow on their feeds.

The move—which Meta said was an “error”—has sparked accusations of censorship in advance of Thursday’s debate.

The Daily Dot also found that Instagram users can no longer customize how fact-checked the content on their feed is.

In February, the platform stopped “proactively recommending” political content to users and instead gave them the choice to opt in or out of seeing it recommended on their feeds.

In a statement to Kyle Tharp, a political reporter who writes the newsletter FWIW, the mass opt-out was “an error and should not have happened”—and the company is “working on getting it fixed.”

When Instagram initially announced its new political content policy in February, the company said in a blog post that it didn’t want to get in between people who want to see political content on their feeds. According to a Pew Research report published earlier this month, approximately 26% of Instagram users utilize the platform to “keep up with politics.”

But the change ignited concerns about censorship and questions about what Instagram considered a “political” post.

“You can’t just essentially put a blindfold on people who may not realize it. A lot of people don’t even know that this is a thing that’s been applied to their preferences,” Johanna Toruño, a creator and artist with a large Instagram platform, told NBC at the time.

In response, a Meta spokesperson told CNN that political content is “likely to be about topics related to government or election.”

“For example, posts about laws, elections, or social topics,” Meta’s statement continued. “These global issues are complex and dynamic, which means this definition will evolve as we continue to engage with the people and communities who use our platforms and external experts to refine our approach.”

And Meta’s recent “error” of opting everyone out of seeing political content from accounts they don’t follow on their feed again sparked concerns about blindfolding the public a day before President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump’s first debate ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“Instagram has auto switched all accounts to limit political content. Even those that have previously opted in,” an Instagram post from @HowdyPolitics and @AmericansForDemocracy says. “Just before the first presidential debate, anytime you [quit] the app, it rests your settings to limit political content again.”

The Daily Dot also found that Meta isn’t allowing users to stray from Instagram’s default setting for how much content on one’s feed to reduce by fact-checking. In the app’s “content preferences” settings menu, users are given three options for how much fact-checked content appears in their feed: reduce content via fact-checking (meaning less false or altered content), reduce more (hardly any false or altered content), or don’t reduce at all (false and altered content in feed potentially without a warning).

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When attempting to change those preferences, we weren’t able to choose “don’t reduce” or “reduce more”—the app continued to revert back to “reduce (default).”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Meta for a comment.

Correction: This post originally misspelled Kyle Tharp’s last name.

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