The Tech Transparency Project first noticed the bug and believes that it has been in effect since at least June. “What we’ve seen with the related hashtags with Biden is that there is so much vitriol, that it appears to be benefitting President Trump,” director of the Tech Transparency Project, Katie Paul, told Buzzfeed on Wednesday.
An Instagram spokesperson characterized the issue as a ‘bug’ and pointed out that other non-political hashtags such as #menshair and #artofdrinks were similarly impacted. “A technical error caused a number of hashtags to not show related hashtags,” the spokesperson said in a Tuesday statement. “We've disabled this feature while we investigate.”
The Biden campaign declined to comment however a spokesperson for the Trump campaign “lambasted the bug as an example of alleged bias against conservatives on social media platforms,” according to Buzzfeed.
This is far from the first time that conservatives have railed against what they perceive as bias, even when actively benefitting from it. Just last August Facebook commissioned a third-party audit of its platform in the wake of three years of congressional Republican baseless wingeing about how the social media company inherently promoted liberal content. This, of course despite the fact that the site’s Top 10 daily posts, as measured by Facebook itself, are overwhelmingly produced by fringe right-wing outlets like Ben Shapiro and Sean Hannity.
To be fair, however, Instagram’s recommendation algorithm is a bit garbage to start with. As Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac points out above, the platform routinely pops worrisome, conspiracy theory-related hashtags for searches of famous figures such as Chrissy Teigen.