Is Instagram and Twitter behaving sexist?
A grave question lies upon us – Do we really live in a male dominant and a sexist society? I guess we do, especially on social media platforms. Algorithms of various social media platforms have a more sexist approach when it comes to women’s profile as per researchers at Columbia University.
How are these algorithms discriminating?
The algorithms of social media platforms have found to be discriminating against women by making their profiles less visible, which leads to less popularity. For instance, research shows that men enjoy greater popularity than women on Twitter. Apart from being sexist, researchers also found that racial discrimination exists as well, with African-Americans having lower acceptance rates on platforms like Airbnb.
Using Instagram as a test case, Columbia Researchers showed how two common recommendation algorithms amplify a network effect known as homophily where similar or like-minded people cluster together. It was observed that social media platforms with homophily make women profiles less discoverable. Further, it was observed that women in the dataset, who have photos which are less likely to be “liked” or “commented” by other users on the platform, are pushed down further on the visibility scale.
The data was scraped by the university researchers from Instagram in 2014 after Facebook bought the company and before the start of automated prompts for friend recommendations came up.
The study’s lead author Ana-Andreea Stoica, a graduate student at Columbia Engineering said,
“We are simply showing how certain algorithms pick up patterns in the data, “This becomes a problem when information spreading through the network is a job ad or other opportunity. Algorithms may put women at an even greater disadvantage.”
The Instagram test case showed that although women outnumbered men in occupying the larger chunk of the sample of 550,000 users, photos shared by men were better received by others. Around 52 percent of men received at least 10 likes or comments compared to 48 percent women.
Further, it was found that disparity was greatest among Instagram’s super-influencers. When the algorithms were turned loose on this particular network of ultra-engaging individuals, women’s visibility further plunged.
It was observed that women in the top 0.1 percent for engagement outnumbered men, yet they were likely to be suggested less than men to new users.