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The Victoria’s Secret fashion show might be canceled, but its sexist legacy lives on in the algorithms on Instagram and Facebook.

This year, Salty’s research into algorithmic injustice on Instagram and Facebook uncovered (amongst other things) bias against women focused businesses, sex workers, queer people, BIPOC and plus sized people. We were inspired to undertake this work after bearing brunt of algorithmic bias ourselves – despite our phenomenal growth, Salty has been kicked off a number of email service providers, denied from many advertising platforms, and faces ongoing censorship on social media.

Algorithms are the backbone of content moderation online, but algorithms are based on policies, and policies are created by humans – humans with bias, and humans who are often working to protect the interests of their corporate clients. When policies are built with implicit or explicit bias, these values are extrapolated and implemented at scale across entire platforms and digital ecosystems.

When Salty was sent the internal ad policies pertaining to underwear and swimwear for Instagram and Facebook, were shocked at their bias- and even more discouraged when we were told, by a Facebook representative, that they were created in alignment with a Victoria’s Secret’s advertising campaign.

Alarmingly, every single policy explicitly states that women are the target of the policies. Read that again: according to these guidelines, there are literally no policies pertaining to nudity or swimwear for men’s bodies in advertising. The fact that men are not included at all, supports the data that women’s bodies and women-led businesses are more highly policed than men on Instagram.