Instagram Unravels The Mysteries Of How Its Algorithms Work

Instagram probably hasn’t done enough to explain why the platform removes content, why some information is recommended, and how the platform works more broadly, Stacey Houston, senior UX researcher at Instagram, said during a panel discussion during the company’s first Creator Week.

An Instagram creator led the questioning around the topic of how the company works with algorithms to try to unravel some of its mysteries around what serves up in feeds and the “shadowbanning” of some content -- a term that describes censoring or silencing a post.

Houston said shadowbanning is one of the biggest and most complex issues right now. It is mostly decided through algorithms that, in part, determine the types of information that should serve up in Feeds, Stories, Explore, and Reels. Each works differently based on interests and location.



The idea is to become more transparent about why Instagram take things down, as well as working to make fewer mistakes, and fixing them quickly when it does.

He also said sharing how the algorithms work should help creators optimize their content. Think SEO. 

The interview that took place during the first day of the Instagram Creator Week, and an accompanying blog post, aims to shed light on the process and clear up misconceptions.

Instagram is developing better in-app notifications, so people know in the moment why, for instance, their post was taken down, and exploring ways to let people know when the content in their post goes against the company’s Recommendations Guidelines, wrote Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri in a blog. “We’ll have more to share soon, and we’ll also go more in-depth on these topics in this series,” he wrote.

The blog post also explains how content in a variety of Instagram platforms is ranked. In Explore, for example, the most important signals are information about the post, history of interacting with the person who posted, activity, and information about the person who posted. In Reels, it’s all about the person’s activity, history of interacting with the person who posts, and information about the reel.

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