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Student Research Guide WQ24/ Instagram's Algorithm

Student Research Guide for Library 201/ Jevoni Potter

The history of algorithms and how they came to be the superpowers they are today


The Origins of Instagram's Algorithm

 This is a student created research guide for English 102 & Library 201 Learning community

This guide will analyze the origins of Instagram's algorithm and its history stemming from the ethics of Silicon Valley and companies who were born from it.

The research thesis of this guide is to explore the origins of social media algorithms and how they were raised to become the powerful puppet masters they have become today

  1. How have the ethics in Silicon Valley impacted the modern Instagram algorithm?
  2. How does the public view Instagram and it's algorithm today, and has it changed in the last decade?
  3. What choices from other companies and communities have led to the algorithm we have today?


Over the past couple of years, Instagram has grown in increasing numbers of concerning content. This lack of moderation from the app has allowed posts and comment sections to witness rises in the amount of violent content or other content that aims to harm targeted users on the platform. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the recorded history of Instagram and use that to draw conclusions on why Instagram has become what it is today. Sources were pulled from the SVC database, Google Scholar, journalistic websites, and other scholarly books. The conclusion shows that while there is a smaller amount of articles studying Instagram compared to some other social media apps like Facebook, the articles that are available draw clear lines between Facebook’s strategy and business tactics and the current state of the Instagram app. The implications are that future researchers should discuss possible methods for properly monitoring Instagram’s platform in order to ensure standards and safety among online communities.

Background Information

Today, with a lack of adequate moderation, Instagram continues to worsen in blatantly toxic content. Repeated offensive statements continue to harass and insult the app's users while somehow being promoted by the algorithm and being spread farther than before. Instagram, originally created in 2010 under the name Burbn, was purchased by Facebook in 2012. Facebook sought to eliminate the potential competition by buying Instagram instead. Facebook then put blocks in place that limited the amount of staff that Instagram was allowed to hire and prioritized Facebook's monitoring over Instagram. Now while Facebook is the target of multiple investigations, Instagram remains largely unnoticed, free to continue spreading the negative messages it has been spreading.

Video, Graph, or Image

The video below presents the positive impacts of the growing influence of social media. Not every impact is negative and it is important to remember all of the positive things that social media can give us. The presenter gives numerous examples of positive instances where social media is used to help people in various ways. She also provides other ways in which people are using this to benefit businesses. This resource is important to showcase not all of social media is toxic and bad for society.

Source citation:

Ted. (2021). "TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat -- and the rise of bite-sized content | Qiuqing Tai". [Video]. Youtube.

All Content CC-BY.