Instagram to Expand Checking Without Removing Misinformation

Instagram is trying to step up its efforts to combat misinformation on the platform. Its newest plan is what I consider to be a good start, but still needs improvement. The plan builds upon an existing third-party fact-checker program that began in May of 2019. Instagram is now expanding their fact-checking program globally to allow fact-checking organizations around the world to assess and rate misinformation on Instagram.

When content has been rated as false or partly false by a third-party fact-checker, we reduce its distribution by removing it from Explore and hashtag pages. In addition, it will be labeled so people can better decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share. When these labels are applied, they will appear to everyone around the world viewing that content – in feed, profile, stories, and direct messages.

Instagram is also applying image matching technology to find additional instances of the same content so the label can be applied to it. One interesting thing about this new change is that content that has been rated false or partly false on Facebook, and that also appears on Instagram, will automatically be labeled.

This is a good start towards reducing the spread – and negative repercussions – of misinformation. But, I think Instagram (and Facebook) should go further.

It would be more effective if Instagram/Facebook removed the misinformation entirely. Allowing it to spread, to people who are inclined to think the warning labels are wrong, is a terrible idea. Doing so could persuade people to hold on even tighter to misinformation that happens to match their political or personal viewpoints.