Social media sites ‘silence women’ and promote men’s posts instead

Rob Waugh
Contributor
Does social media create an ‘algorithmic glass ceiling’? (Picture Rex)

It’s safe to say it’s not been a good year for social media, what with Facebook’s murky privacy coming under the spotlight – but is social media sexist, too?

A new Columbia University study found that social networks can tend to ‘drown out’ women’s views – with men likely to comment and ‘like’ each other’s posts at women’s expense.

The net result is that posts by women on networks such as Instagram tend to garner fewer ‘Likes’ – and algorithms thus make them less visible.

The result is an ‘algorithmic glass ceiling’, which has the potential to silence women’s voices on social media, the researchers have warned.

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The researchers found that men were 1.2 times more likely to ‘Like’ or interact with each other’s posts, while women were only 1.1 times more likely.

Out of the surveyed users, 52% of men received 10 likes or comments, compared to 48% of women.

Algorithms can make the problem worse, the researchers say, with only 30% of women likely to be recommended to other Instagram users.

‘We are simply showing how certain algorithms pick up patterns in the data,’ said lead author Ana-Andreea Stoica.

‘This becomes a problem when information spreading through the network is a job ad or other opportunity’

‘Algorithms may put women at an even greater disadvantage.’

‘Algorithms pick up subtle patterns and amplify them,’ said the study’s senior author, Augustin Chaintreau, a computer science professor at Columbia Engineering.

‘We’re not asking that algorithms be blind to the data, just that they correct their own tendency to magnify the bias already there.’

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