Instagram and Threads Are Limiting Political Content in Your Feed. Here's How to Turn It Off.

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At least half of US adults get their news from social media at least sometimes, according to a November 2023 study by the Pew Research Center. With the potential TikTok ban on people’s minds and given some people’s distrust of mainstream media, there’s increasing attention on how content is being moderated on mainstream social media platforms. While Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta (parent company of Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp) has had no shortage of complaints over the years, one particular February 2024 platform change recently caught users’ attention.

On March 21, Teen Vogue contributor Olayemi Olurin, a political content creator, posted a screenshot on her Twitter/X account of a comment from one of her Instagram posts. “Did yal know Instagram was actively limiting the reach of political content like this?!” Olurin wrote on the Elon Musk-owned platform. “I had no idea till I saw this comment and I checked my settings and sho nuff political content was limited.”

Here are the basics of what you need to know about Meta’s politics content settings and how you can change yours.

What exactly is the new policy?

In Meta’s words: “We won’t proactively recommend content about politics on recommendation surfaces across Instagram and Threads. If you still want these posts recommended to you, you will have a control to see them.” So, to clarify: This policy specifically impacts content from accounts you don’t follow, meaning those you might stumble upon in “recommended” posts or on your Explore page, or are recommended as an IG Reel.

Now here’s a big “but”: The policy as written doesn’t impact “political” content from accounts you are intentionally following, but it may impact content creators who make political content. According to the Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz and Naomi Nix, who spoke to Meta about the policy last month:

“While users will still be allowed to follow accounts that post about political and social issues, accounts posting such content will not be recommended and content posted by nonpolitical accounts that is political in nature or includes social commentary also won’t be recommended.”

For more on how creators can contest Meta’s rulings on their content, check out the Verge’s coverage.

The change comes amid a rise in political content on Instagram, likely tied to how many people have left Twitter (now X) since Musk’s takeover.

What counts as “political” content?

Some observed that Meta’s categorization of what could be considered “political” content was quite broad, vaguely lumping together “posts about laws, elections, or social topics,” which could include any number of topics, from LGBTQ+ rights to feminism, to COVID, and more, as noted by CNN’s Oliver Darcy and other journalists.

Other posters wondered if it was related to the accusations of shadowbanning Palestinian content that have followed most platforms in recent months. (In December 2023, Human Rights Watch reported that Meta was engaging in what they called “systemic online censorship” of Palestine-related content.) Meanwhile, some politicians are suggesting that the ability to access “pro-Palestine” content on TikTok is part of the reason why it should be banned.

When and why did Meta make this change?

Some users were quick to call Meta’s change “quiet,” but when it went live in early February, it was widely reported, accompanied by press releases from Meta. It’s possible that this only caught people’s attention as they grow concerned that the ability to use TikTok as an information-sharing platform will be damaged by a possible congressional ban.

So why? As I wrote in an op-ed last summer when Meta launched Twitter competitor Threads, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told the press that Threads would not “do anything to encourage” content involving politics or hard news. The way I summarized their response in that op-ed still rings true to me now: Basically, “content moderation is hard, so we’re just going to not algorithmically promote content that might require a higher level of moderation.” Given extensive reporting on how poorly their content moderation workers are treated, this isn’t surprising — but the end result could amount to censorship on an app that seems to prefer to function as a shopping mall.

How can I turn it off?

To turn off the setting in your Instagram app, go to Settings, then Content Preferences. From there, you will see Political Content in the list of options. Click on that, and it will allow you to choose between Don’t Limit and Limit. The new change should have automatically set you at Limit.

If you have a Professional account on Instagram, here’s information on how to fix your settings from TechCrunch.

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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