Incident 331: Bug in Instagram’s “Related Hashtags” Algorithm Allegedly Caused Disproportionate Treatment of Political Hashtags

Description: A bug was reported by Instagram’s spokesperson to have prevented an algorithm from populating related hashtags for thousands of hashtags, resulting in an allege preferential treatment for some politically partisan hashtags.


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Alleged: Instagram developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Instagram users.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
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Khoa Lam
A “Bug” In Instagram's Hashtags Has Been Favoring Donald Trump · 2020

The difference between these two results, which an Instagram spokesperson told BuzzFeed News was a “bug,” prevented hashtags including #Trump and #MAGA from being associated with potentially negative content. Meanwhile, Instagram hashtags a…

Instagram’s Hashtag Blocking Favors Trump, Hurts Biden · 2020

Facebook-owned Instagram disabled ‘related hashtags’ for key Trump content, blocking potentially negative messages. Biden didn’t get the same treatment.

Instagram has shielded President Donald Trump from potentially negative hashtags while …


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.