Instagram "actively promotes" accounts encouraging teen eating disorders

Instagram has acknowledged to CNN that it promoted accounts glorifying extreme dieting and eating disorders, the channel reports, and admitted that it should not have done so.

The extreme dieting accounts were promoted to an Instagram account set up by Sen. Richard Blumenthal's staff. The Connecticut Senator's team registered an account as a 13-year-old girl and proceeded to follow some dieting and pro-eating disorder accounts (the latter of which are supposed to be banned by Instagram). Soon, Instagram's algorithm began almost exclusively recommending the young teenage account should follow more and more extreme dieting accounts, the Senator told CNN.

Blumenthal's office shared with CNN a list of accounts Instagram's algorithm had recommended. After CNN sent a sample from this list of five accounts to Instagram for comment, the company removed them, saying all of them broke its policies against encouraging eating disorders.

Speaking to CNN Monday, Blumenthal said: "This experience shows very graphically how [Facebook's] claims to protect children or take down accounts that may be dangerous to them are absolute hogwash."

The same Senator who asked the dumb question about "Finsta" accounts now delivers a perfectly-executed sting operation on Instagram's misleading claims about its engagement machine. It will not be as widely reported, I fear.