Instagram apologises for mistake which targeted users with harmful diet content

The Editors
·2-min read
Photo credit: Edward Berthelot - Getty Images
Photo credit: Edward Berthelot - Getty Images

Instagram has apologised for promoting harmful diet content to certain users, which health experts and campaigners said could be triggering for those with or recovering from eating disorders. The social media platform has said that the mistake has now been fixed.

According to the BBC, the search function in the app was automatically recommending terms including 'appetite suppressants' and 'fasting' to some users, with the algorithm targeting this harmful diet content to users with eating disorders, something which eating-disorder campaigners and health experts said could lead to people relapsing.

"We recently rolled out a new search functionality on Instagram beyond hashtags and usernames, to help you more easily discover and explore content you are most interested in," a spokesperson for Facebook (which owns Instagram) told the BBC.

"As part of this new feature, when you tap on the search bar, we’ll suggest topics you may want to search for. Those suggestions, as well as the search results themselves, are limited to general interests, and weight loss should not have been one of them."

The issue meant that some users following accounts that relate to eating-disorder recovery would then be targeted with the complete opposite type of content, that which promotes weight-loss and would harm their mental health.

This is not the first measure Instagram has taken to deal with issues of harmful diet content on its app. At the moment, any content that promotes, encourages or glorifies eating disorders is banned from the app, while all posts advertising weight-loss products are not shown to those under 18.

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