Instagram 'bug' reportedly favors Trump campaign content over Biden

The hashtags for both the president and his Democratic rival have been treated differently since at least June, Buzzfeed reports.

Alexandra Garrett Associate Editor
Alexandra is an associate editor on CNET's Performance Optimization team. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, and interned with CNET's Tech and News teams while in school. Prior to joining CNET full time, Alexandra was a breaking news fellow at Newsweek, where she covered current events and politics.
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Instagram algorithm reportedly favored Trump hashtags since June. 

Angela Lang/CNET

A bug in Instagram's algorithms reportedly pushed content favoring President Donald Trump's reelection campaign over that of presumptive Democratic rival Joe Biden. A search for Biden showed a variety of pro-Trump content, while searches for Trump didn't provide hashtags promoting alternative viewpoints, Buzzfeed reported Wednesday. 

Hashtag searches for #JoeBiden produced over 390,000 posts tagged with the former vice president's name alongside related hashtags chosen by Instagram's algorithm. These posts also featured pro-Trump tags, Buzzfeed noted.

Similar searches for #DonaldTrump reportedly showed over 6.7 million posts that were tagged with the president's name, but didn't push any related hashtags showing an opposing viewpoint. 

Nonpartisan tech watchdog group Tech Transparency Project came across the bug, according to Buzzfeed. The hashtags for both Trump and Biden have been treated differently since at least June, it said.

The "technical error caused tens of thousands of hashtags to not show related tags," Instagram told CNET on Thursday. 

Many other hashtags were affected, including #democrats and generic terms like #artofdrinks and #menshair, the Facebook-owned social media company said. However, other terms associated with Trump, including #trumppence2020 and #votetrump, were unaffected by the bug. 

Instagram is disabling this feature so it can further investigate, it said.

Neither the Trump campaign nor the Biden campaign immediately responded to requests for comment.

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