Further investigation from Buzzfeed found that until recently, searching for #JoeBiden on Instagram would also return results for #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica alongside pro-Biden messaging. Meanwhile, a similar search for #DonaldTrump did not return related hashtags.
Katie Paul, a director of the Tech Transparency Project, told Buzzfeed that the suppression of related hashtags “removes any possibility that negative hashtags could be associated with [Trump’] name or campaign slogans.”
An Instagram spokesperson said that the bug — which also affected tens of thousands of nonpolitical hashtags — “appears to have impacted both parties.” She noted that some pro-Trump tags, including #trumppence2020 and #votetrump, displayed related hashtags, whereas #democrats did not.
The tags #trumppence2020 and #votetrump are connected to 60,000 and 133,000 posts respectively, whereas #Trump — which did not display related hashtags — has more than 14 million posts.
Tim Murtaugh, the director of communications for the Trump campaign, denied the algorithm had a pro-Trump bias, and expressed unfounded claims that Silicon Valley companies are staffed by “the extreme left.” The Biden campaign declined to comment.