Social media giants like Facebook are set to face further questions after a new investigation has revealed platform algorithms actively promote misogynistic content to certain users.
Facebook and Instagram users who show signs of hostility towards women online are more likely to then have pages recommended to them that reference sexual violence, disturbing memes about sex acts and content condoning gendered violence, according to a BBC Panorama investigation.
Panorama investigators and researchers at the think tank Demos also found the majority of abuse targeted at public figures is targeted at Black and Asian users.
The findings will heap additional pressure on the social media giants, particularly Facebook, who owns Instagram.
Frances Haugen, a former employee of the firm and now a whistleblower, last week told a US government committee, “There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. Facebook over and over again chose to optimise for its own interests, like making more money.”
Facebook, which also owns Instagram, says it tries not to recommend content that breaks its rules and is actively improving its technology “to find and remove abuse more quickly”. This has included new measures to tackle sexualised hate targeting journalists, politicians and celebrities.
However, Panorama’s data shows that even after these cases have been reported, 97 per cent of accounts sending misogynistic messages remain on platforms, and in some cases actively promoting them.
To test this, Panorama set up a fake profile of a man with some signs of hostility towards women on his profile. After just a week, the top recommended pages to follow on both Facebook and Instagram were almost all hostile to women.
Chloe Colliver, a social media expert who advised Panorama on this experiment said: “The platforms themselves sent the majority of this content themselves and selected it, curated it and targeted it. So if this profile were a real person, it would have been brought into a hateful community full of misogynistic content very, very quickly within two weeks.”