Instagram apologies after its algorithm promoted diet content to users, triggering eating disorders

Instagram apologises after a “mistake” with its algorithm promoted diet content to users with eating disorders.

The search function in the app automatically recommended terms including “appetite suppressants” and “fasting” to some people.

The social media platform said harmful terms have now been removed.

“We recently rolled out a new search functionality on Instagram beyond hashtags and usernames, to help you more easily discover and explore content you’re most interested in,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“As part of this new feature, when you tap on the search bar, we’ll suggest topics you may want to search for.

“Those suggestions, as well as the search results themselves, are limited to general interests, and weight loss should not have been one of them.”

Eating disorder charities have repeatedly said technology firms should consider the impact on vulnerable people.

Posts trigger young people with eating disorders, as apps show ways to alter body parts, including making waists slimmer and adding muscles.

A recent study by a Yorkshire-based charity Seed said it has seen a 68% increase in 10 to 19-year-olds seeking help for eating disorders in 2020 compared to the year before, with a 56% increase overall for all age group.