Instagram users fume as app begins limiting political content

Instagram has automatically changed users settings to the default position of limiting political content

While Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg pumped big bucks into the 2020 presidential election to help people get out and vote, his company has begun restricting Instagram users' access to political information in their feeds ahead of November's election.

Instagram appears to have changed users' algorithm settings to the default position of limiting political content – and users have been furiously reacting to the change online. 

Meta announced on Feb. 9 that a change to both Instagram and Threads was in the works, saying in a press release that it no longer wanted to "proactively recommend" political content from accounts users don’t follow.

Logos of Instagram and Threads

The logos of social media platforms Instagram, left, and Threads, right, which have started limiting political content.  (Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)


The company said that it would effectively be restricting political content mentioning "laws, elections, or social topics" from accounts not being followed by users unless they choose to do so, although the company did not go into detail about what it meant by political content. 

However, there would be no restrictions on accounts users already follow, Meta said at the time. 

But the February announcement did not say that all users would be automatically switched to the default position of limiting political content – which appears to have been the case over the last 48 hours, according to many users. 

"We should all be outraged but this overstep," wrote independent journalist Jessica Reed Kraus to her 1.2 million Instagram followers. 

"Censorship during peak campaign months is a direct threat to the [sic] democracy."

Grant Godwin, a citizen journalist known as "The Typical Liberal," also ripped the move to his 2.9 million Instagram followers.

"Limiting political posts right before the 2024 election. Go figure," Godwin wrote. "Share this everywhere and DM your favorite political accounts to let them know!" he went on to write in all bold letters.

Two images showing political content restrictions in Instagram

Instagram settings show political content restrictions. (Screenshot)


Users can check their settings by clicking on "content preferences" and then "pollical content" where they will find two options: a "limit" or "don’t limit" option with the limit option already highlighted.

It is unclear when the rollout took place, Fox News Digital reached out to Meta for comment, but a spokesperson did not provide a timeline. The spokesperson also did not say why Meta appears to have made the limiting of political content the default setting. 

"This announcement expands on years of work on how we approach and treat political content based on what people have told us they wanted," the spokesperson said. "It does not impact posts from accounts people choose to follow; it impacts what the system recommends. And now, people are going to be able to control whether they would like to have these types of posts recommended to them."

Some Instagram users said that when they tried to change their settings, the app crashed.

"The entire app crashes when I go to political settings. That’s wild," one user fumed Friday.

"Interesting I went to my settings and privacy and content & went to limit, and it takes me back out of Instagram. It won’t let me change it!!" wrote another. 

For the 2020 election, Meta CEO Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan poured about $400 million to two nonprofit organizations to help various government election offices across the country with work and equipment including ballot drop boxes, voting equipment, additional manpower, COVID-19 protective gear for poll workers and public education campaigns on new voting methods.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, smile as they prepare for a speech in San Francisco in 2016.

Democrats defended the money as necessary to conduct the election safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, while Republicans noted most of the grants targeted Democrat-leaning districts. 

In several states, counties that broke heavily for Joe Biden received more "Zuck Bucks" donations, according to an analysis by the Capital Research Center. House Republicans found in an investigation that less than 1% of the funds were spent on personal protective equipment.

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