If your Instagram experience is anything like mine, you might’ve noticed that things are feeling rather stale lately; every day seems to bring a new deluge of aggregated makeup tutorials from YouTube, Reels of lifehacks ripped from TikTok, and vlogs from Instagram accounts that are wholly unrelated to the anonymous account posting them to the top of your feed.
Turns out Instagram’s noticed the trend too. Now, the company says it’s going to tweak things so these sorts of posts get pushed further down your feed, which will (hopefully!) make original posts bubble towards the top.
“If you create something from scratch, you should get more credit than if you are resharing something that you found from someone else,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a Twitter post on Wednesday announcing the ranking change.
He added that the platform will “ do more to try and value original content more, particularly compared to reposted content” moving forward.
“Original content” can mean a lot of things, so naturally, folks in Mosseri’s comments had questions. One person wanted to know whether pictures and clips shared from their camera roll would be seen as “reposted,” and that only clips recorded and edited in-app would be seen as “original” and worth bumping to the top of people’s feeds.
Thankfully, Mosseri clarified that stuff uploaded from your camera roll wouldn’t be penalized by this new change. “The idea is if you made it, it’s original,” he tweeted back. “It’s okay if you edited it outside of Instagram and then bring it in via the gallery. Identifying ‘originality’ is hard though, so we will iterate over time.”
The photo-sharing social network has already been iterating on what counts as original until now; Mosseri said in a response to another tweet that Instagram’s ranking systems “already do this.” The problem is that like any platform of Instagram’s scale, it’s not human eyes judging what’s “original,” but artificial intelligence. And because an AI is, well, an AI, it looks like these systems couldn’t distinguish between a person posting an original makeup tutorial on their Instagram account and a rando downloading and reposting that original content for themselves. That means these sniped snippets end up flooding our feeds and sometimes accrue millions of views, while the original tutorial languishes in obscurity.
“We’re leaning more in this direction and plan to do so more and more over time,” Mosseri wrote.
While it’s still an open question of how Instagram judges the originality of a piece of content, it’s even more of a question of how aggregator accounts are going to respond. Mosseri hinted in one of the responses that this new ranking change is primarily meant to demote accounts that are obvious aggregators—those with names like “Top_Makeup_Tips” or “WildYouTubeCompilations” that you’ve likely seen at the top of your recommendations. If someone is trying to actually pose as the original creator behind a set of clips, then “it’ll be hard” for the platform to know, Mosseri said.
This means that best case, we end up with a feed full of fresh, original content pushed to the top. Worst case, we see these aggregator accounts just pretend to be influencers in order to avoid being penalized. Instagram’s already had a problem with this kind of “influencer fraud” over the years, and it seems unavoidable that this new change will spark an uptick in phony accounts across the platform.