Instagram starts asking some users about their race and ethnicity

Meta says the data could help make the app fairer and more inclusive.

·2 min read
Dado Ruvic / reuters

Between the controversy over Instagram’s attempts to ape TikTok and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg noting that the volume of recommended content is set to double over the next year, the app has barely been out of the news this week. Now, the Instagram team wants to know more about the experiences of marginalized communities in the app.

To gain a fuller understanding of the different kinds of experiences people can have on the platform, Instagram says it needs more demographic information. “If we don’t know people's race or ethnicity, we’re limited in our ability to assess how our products impact different communities,” an Instagram blog post reads.

Starting today and over the next few months, it's asking some users in the US to share that information about themselves. The survey is optional and not everyone will see it. Instagram says taking part in the survey will not change anything about how you use the platform, such as the reach of your posts.

Instagram race and ethnicity survey
Instagram race and ethnicity survey

Instagram isn’t hosting the survey itself. Research and polling company YouGov will collect the data. It will encrypt the de-identified responses and split the information between several research institutions. In the end, Instagram will receive aggregated data. Neither Instagram nor its research partners — Texas Southern University, University of Central Florida, Northeastern University and Oasis Labs — will be able to link responses to individual users. YouGov will delete the responses after 30 days and the research partners will do so on request.

In June 2020, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri pledged to examine how the platform impacts communities differently, specifically in terms of harassment, verification, content distribution and algorithmic bias. A few months later, Instagram said it was building an equity team to focus on "better understanding and addressing bias in our product development and people’s experiences on Instagram.”