Screenshots of the February 14th Healthcare.gov Instagram survey.
Yesterday afternoon, while thumbing through endless cascades of pink Valentine's hearts, kiss-y selfies, and blizzard prep photos, a number of Instagram users received a pop-up surprise in the form of an unfamiliar advertiser survey.
The survey, which was delivered to a wide swath of Instagram users as well as multiple BuzzFeed News employees, led to grousing on social media and widespread speculation that the Obama administration was responsible for the Instagram intrusion.
In fact it was all a mistake by Facebook, Instagram's corporate parent, the company says.
"The survey was posted in error and it was pulled down as soon as it was discovered," a Facebook official told BuzzFeed News Sunday evening.
The administration and allied health care advocacy groups were operating at a fevered pace for most of the weekend, trying to get as many eligible Americans signed up for health insurance as possible before open enrollment ended Sunday. Multiple officials from across that effort seemed as confused by the Instagram survey when confronted with as regular users were when it popped up in their Instagram feeds.
The surveys are no longer being delivered to Instagram users according to Facebook.
One survey, which was delivered to a BuzzFeed News employee, asked if the user could recall seeing any sort of message from healthcare.gov on Facebook, the social network which owns Instagram.
Another Instagram user, Ryan Lee, posted to Twitter that he was served a quiz asking "What's the last day to sign up for health insurance through the affordable care act."
Last December Social Times reported that Instagram was experimenting with ad surveys, however, they've been largely absent from the service. Yesterday's healthcare.gov survey appears to be quite widepsread, judging by the social media reaction.
In this specific survey, it's unclear whether the two surveys were intended to raise awareness or to simply collect data about user awareness of healthcare.gov. It's also unclear which user demographics the survey targeted.
Though Instagram seems to have only targeted a small pool of users with the survey, a number took to Twitter to express their displeasure:
This story has been updated to make clear that Facebook is the source of the assertion that the survey was an accident.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
Contact Evan McMorris-Santoro at email@example.com.
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