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How Does Instagram Monitor Content?

Nathan Rosenberg
Nathan Rosenberg
Content Writer at Spikerz
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Published -  
May 7, 2024
How Does Instagram Monitor Content?

Imagine recording a sunlit morning or a spontaneous rain dance, then sharing that moment with the world instantly. That's the power of Instagram - see and be seen by your friends, or everyone if you wish that.

What began as a novel photo-sharing app has become a global social media giant. Every day, billions engage with the platform, sharing glimpses of their lives. But with this vast data, how does it monitor content? How does it ensure that the platform promotes a safe space for everyone? 

Let’s find out.

Understanding Instagram Content Management

User-Generated Content (UGC) is the lifeblood of Instagram. It's the photos of sumptuous meals, travel escapades, and life's candid moments that keep users engaged. But, with UGC comes many challenges.

Here's a scenario for you: Jenna loves baking. One day, she posts a photo of a cake adorned with cute, edible figures. To her surprise, her engagement drops dramatically. Confused, she digs deeper and discovers that her harmless creation was misflagged by Instagram as inappropriate. This highlights the difficult challenges of content monitoring user-generated content.

Instagram uses Meta's technology to monitor its content. The platform deploys AI and machine learning for content surveillance. AI does the following tasks: 

Image and Text Recognition: At a fundamental level, Instagram scans visual and textual elements, searching for patterns suggesting guideline violations.

Behavioral Patterns: Beyond content, there's behavior. Rapid following, spam-like behavior, or certain flagged hashtags can land a user on Instagram's watchlist.

User Reports: Users can report potentially harmful content. However, bots initially assess these reports, ensuring only genuine concerns reach human eyes.

Human Moderators Rule in Making Instagram Safer

Automation is adequate but not dependable. Humans provide the necessary judgment that machines lack.

Human reviewers must be prepared for everything, from harmless content misjudged by the AI to disturbing visuals. They manually check which among the reported images do not comply with the content guidelines of the platform.

A machine may not understand that your sarcastic comment is just a playful joke with a friend, but human checkers will. They get the joke, the innuendo, and the cultural nuances. Their decision can override an automated flag.

Instagram's Community Guidelines: The Do's and Don'ts

Content moderation is Instagram's way of maintaining a safe and positive environment for its community. These rules don't exist to stifle creativity. They're in place to ensure users' safety and comfort. 

If you've ever been unsure about what's allowed and what's not, remember the following;

1. No Hate Speech or Discrimination: Any content that promotes violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on attributes like race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability is prohibited.

2. Violence and Graphic Content: Instagram is not the place for violent images or videos. While some exceptions are made for posts with clear educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic value, graphic content must be appropriately marked.

3. Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity: While photos of post-mastectomy scars and breastfeeding are allowed, most other forms of nudity, including sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully nude buttocks, are not. Some photos of female nipples, except for breastfeeding, birth, or health-related situations, are typically removed.

4. Misinformation and Fake News: With the rise of misinformation on social media, Instagram has started flagging and reducing the reach of content rated false by third-party fact-checkers.

5. Sale of Illegal or Regulated Goods: Any content that promotes the sale of firearms, alcohol, tobacco, or adult products isn't allowed. Neither is the promotion of recreational drug use.

6. Self-injury and Suicide: Posts promoting self-injury or suicide are strictly prohibited. If someone expresses thoughts of self-harm or suicide on the platform, Instagram might intervene with resources or contact local authorities.

7. Respect for Intellectual Property: Only post content that you've created or have the right to share. This means no sharing of copyrighted music, videos, or other materials without appropriate permission.

8. Impersonation: Creating accounts that pretend to be someone else, whether an individual or brand, violates Instagram's guidelines.

9. Harassment and Bullying: Instagram takes a stand against bullies. Content that shames, degrades, or harasses anyone—a public figure or not—is prohibited.

10. Dangerous Organizations and Individuals: Content that supports or praises terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups is strictly forbidden on the platform.

For better understanding, let's cite another story. Tom, an avid nature enthusiast, once shared a photo of a snake he found during his trek. 

The snake was shown feasting on its prey. Though fascinating for many, the image was flagged and removed because some found it graphically violent. Tom learned the importance of understanding and respecting community guidelines, even when intentions are purely educational.

Shadowbanning on Instagram

Think of shadowbanning as wearing an invisible cloak while trying to be seen. You're still posting, but mysteriously, your content doesn't pop up in hashtag searches, your audience drops, and you're scratching your head about the decline in likes and comments. The tricky part? Instagram doesn't send you a warning, leaving many users frustrated and puzzled.

Instagram aims for real, honest interactions. If you're overusing certain hashtags, playing the follow-unfollow game, or spamming posts, you might unknowingly activate Instagram's shadowban switch.

While recognizing shadowbanning signs is essential, knowing how to tackle it is even more so. That's where Spikerz steps in. More than just detecting a shadowban, Spikerz reviews your habits, highlights potential red flags, and suggests ways to keep your account thriving. 

Another helpful feature of our app is the social media content checker. Our Content Checker protects your account against:

Blocked Accounts: Our vigilant system continually scans the content you share. If it senses any deviation from platform norms, you'll be the first to know. This ensures you can rectify potential pitfalls before they escalate.

Shadowban: This silent threat can cripple your account's visibility and engagement. Most shadowbans are attributed to content that toes the line of platform guidelines. With our checker, sidestep shadowban threats and keep your engagement metrics soaring.

Account Suspension: Treading on the wrong side of platform rules can lead to the dreaded suspension. Our tool preemptively identifies and alerts you about such content, safeguarding your digital space.

More than just a safety net, our content checker is your proactive tool to ensure your posts align with platform-specific nuances. With it, you not only stay connected but thrive without fear. Best of all, it automatically monitors your account 24/7 to ensure you're always compliant with Instagram rules. 

Balancing Content to Pass Instagram's Guideline

Instagram, like a meticulous choreographer, must score a balanced performance.

  1. False Positives vs. Missed Violations: The algorithm's sensitivity is the key. Sometimes, innocent content gets caught, while harmful ones proliferate. This is why human moderators step in to filter harmful content that bots fail to detect. 
  2. User Privacy vs. Community Safety: While Instagram respects user data privacy, threats to community safety might require intervention, necessitating a subtle, reasonable approach.
  3. Freedom of Expression vs. Community Guidelines: Free speech is fundamental. Yet, when does one's freedom to express impinge on another's right to feel safe? This is a gray area that Instagram continually navigates.

The Future of Instagram Content Creation

Instagram's content guideline isn't set in stone. The app learns, evolves, and adapts.

Future of AI: As technology advances, AI's role in content moderation will expand. Instagram and platforms will likely integrate more sophisticated AI models that understand the context better, minimizing instances like Jenna's marzipan fiasco.

User Education: Instagram also makes its community guidelines and content expectations more transparent. Through in-app tutorials, pop-ups, and official blog posts, the aim is to cultivate a user base that's aware and compliant.

Final Thoughts

Instagram's monumental task of monitoring billions of content pieces is awe-inspiring. As the platform grows, so will its methodologies. The symbiosis of machine precision and human judgment ensures Instagram remains a safe haven for digital expression.

For those interested in a broader view of social media content moderation, this in-depth article offers a panoramic perspective on the challenges that platforms face.