data donation

Help us unveil the secrets of Instagram’s algorithm

Instagram is the third largest social network in Europe, but compared to YouTube and Facebook, there has so far been little effort to research its algorithm.

AlgorithmWatch wants to change that and calls on Firefox users for their help in donating data. If you want to contribute, here’s what you can do:

  1. Download the Firefox add-on here. Clicking on the link will prompt you to install the add-on. If nothing happens, right-click on the link and choose “Save link as…”.
  2. Install the add-on in your Firefox browser. You can drag-and-drop it in a new Firefox tab. Alternatively, you can go to your Add-ons by pressing Ctrl+Shift+A and select “Install add-on from file…” in the Settings menu.
  3. Follow the instructions. If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can create one for the experiment.
  4. Use your browser and your mobile normally. You do not need to be especially active or inactive on Instagram during the experiment.
  5. If you want to quit the experiment, you can remove the add-on at any time.

How it works

We follow a set of Instagram users who use the platform to earn an income. We want to know if Instagram’s algorithm favors some type of content over the rest.

The add-on asks data donors to follow three specific accounts. It then collects information about the pictures and videos that appear in their newsfeeds. It also collects information about some of the accounts that data donors follow. All the information is anonymized in a way that makes it impossible for us to re-identify data donors.

For any question about the add-on, contact Nicolas Kayser-Bril <nkb@algorithmwatch.org>.

Are you using Instagram as a source of income and feel that the newsfeed algorithm unfairly discriminates among the content you post? You can contact Nicolas Kayser-Bril securely over Signal at +491702875332 or kayserbril@protonmail.com.


Published: March 3, 2020
Category: data donation

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