Just in time for the debates, Meta fixes bug impacting users' political content settings on Instagram and Threads

Meta has fixed the bug that caused people to believe the company had adjusted their selections in a political content settings tool without their consent. The issue had impacted users on both Instagram and Threads, seemingly resetting users' content settings back to the default, which limits the amount of political content users see from people they don't follow.

On Wednesday, Meta confirmed it was looking into the problem and working on a fix.

Later on Wednesday evening, Meta Communication Director Andy Stone announced in a Threads post that the issue had been resolved. He also shared more information about the nature of the bug, saying that Meta hadn't changed people's political content settings on the back end, it had only appeared to have done so. This made it seem like people's selections had been reset in the settings, "even though no change had actually been made," Stone wrote on Threads.

The company didn't share more information about how the bug came to be in the first place, but Stone encouraged users to check to ensure their settings now reflect their preferences.

You can do so from Instagram's Settings, where you'll scroll down to "Content Preferences" and then select "Political content." From here, you can choose whether or not you want to limit political content from people you follow. The setting affects suggestions that appear in Explore, Reels, Feed Recommendations and Suggested Users, the page explains, and it also applies to Threads.

The fact that Meta even has a political content setting demonstrates the power of algorithmically-driven social apps, where content is shown based on many factors, instead of simply being a reverse-chronological feed of people users have opted to follow. Other startups like Bluesky and other federated networks are looking to new models for how content on social platforms should be moderated or blocked. Bluesky, for instance, lets users build their own feeds and subscribe to moderation services. However, the app's 5.9 million-plus user base is nowhere near as large as Threads' 170 million+ monthly active users, or Instagram's over 2 billion monthly users.

The new control was first announced earlier this year. It serves as a way to distance Meta from blame when it comes to the power its apps have to influence people -- something Meta didn't want to be accused of in the lead-up to the U.S. elections.

The move is not surprising, given the tech giant has faced criticism from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum, having been accused by Republicans of censoring free speech and by Democrats of being too soft on misinformation and disinformation. Only weeks after its X competitor Threads launched, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg with questions about the app’s content moderation policies.

Later, Meta announced it would no longer "proactively" recommend political content, leading to a creator backlash.

Fortunately, for those using Instagram and Threads, the bug was addressed ahead of Trump and Biden's first presidential debate on Thursday night.