Women commonly face discrimination in job searching, in relationships, with salaries, and now, we can add another item to that list: in social media. Yay!
A new study out of Columbia University analyzed the ways in which Instagram’s algorithms make women’s photos less visible than men’s, even though women outnumber men as users of the platform, 46–54%.
Two of the most common Instagram recommendation algorithms serve to enhance an effect called homophily, where like-minded people tend to stick together. In this case this means that women are more likely to engage with other women’s photos, and the same for men.
The researchers took their data from 500,000 Instagram users from 2014, after the app was bought by Facebook, but before they changed it to make friends of friends easier to find.
They found that men’s photos tended to be more well received than women’s: 52% of posts by men got more than 10 likes, but only 48% of women’s photos did.
When they added in two normally used algorithms, they found that the percentage of women that were connected to at least 10 other users fell from 48–36%. The numbers got even worse when they looked at top influencers.
This shows that the algorithms they use make the homophily effect even stronger. Augustin Chaintreau, the study's senior author hopes the results of their study can be persuade social media giants to edit their algorithms.
"We're not asking that algorithms be blind to the data, just that they correct their own tendency to magnify the bias already there."