Days after Facebook and Instagram banned a litany of prominent far-right voices, it looks like the latter of the two apps is stepping up its anti-fake news efforts.
Instagram will start using a similar fact-checking process as Facebook to demote posts that spread bad information, rather than remove them entirely. The news came courtesy of the journalism nonprofit Poynter, which has fact-checking efforts of its own.
It sounds essentially the same as what Facebook has been doing since shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Any post that could be hazardously false will be sent to the same place as their Facebook counterparts, with fact-checkers deciding whether or not to reduce their reach or not.
On Instagram, posts that get flagged as false will stop showing up in the Explore tab and in the results of hashtag searches. An Instagram spokesperson told Poynter that it can take “automatic action” against false images shared on both Facebook and Instagram.
While stemming the tide of false, often conspiratorial content on a platform as big as Instagram is undoubtedly a good thing, there are a couple of concerns here. First, It’s easy to wonder why Facebook and Instagram are opting to limit the reach of said posts instead of just removing them. If an Instagram user follows an account that posts objectionable content, they’ll still see it.
Second, Instagram is apparently not doing all of the same things with false posts as Facebook. On Facebook, anyone who tries to share a post that’s been flagged will be warned against doing so; Instagram apparently won’t label such posts or dissuade users from interacting with them, according to Poynter.
Facebook’s fact-checking efforts have not been universally well-received since they started in late 2016. Popular fact-checking resource Snopes publicly split with Facebook earlier this year, months after a former Snopes employee said Facebook’s efforts were more akin to a PR stunt.
The company also set up a “war room” to combat disinformation campaigns during U.S. midterm elections in 2018. The room had been emptied out by late November, but Facebook has continued to at least nominally fight disinformation ahead of elections in other countries.
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