Instagram is targeting fake coronavirus news and finally taking disinformation and hoaxes seriously

Instagram COVID-19 message

Instagram

An Instagram sticker encourages users to stay home amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

  • As COVID-19 continues to spread, major social networks like Facebook and Instagram are targeting disinformation.
  • Instagram is bringing its moderation standards in line with its parent company Facebook, the company announced on Tuesday morning.
  • "We'll remove COVID-19 accounts from account recommendations, and we are working to remove some COVID-19 related content from Explore, unless posted by a credible health organization," the company said in a blog post. "We will also start to downrank content in feed and Stories that has been rated false by third-party-fact checkers."
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Instagram is making major moderation changes in an attempt to help stem the flow of disinformation, hoaxes, and fake news regarding COVID-19 on its platform.

In a blog post on Tuesday morning, the company announced steps to bring its moderation in line with the moderation already employed by its parent company Facebook.

"We're making several changes to reduce the spread of misinformation," the post said. "We'll remove COVID-19 accounts from account recommendations, and we are working to remove some COVID-19 related content from Explore, unless posted by a credible health organization. We will also start to downrank content in feed and Stories that has been rated false by third-party fact checkers."

Coronavirus, San Francisco

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

A sign is posted on the door of a Joe and The Juice juice bar and coffee shop, which remained open for takeaway orders, in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Instagram and Facebook both use third-party fact-checking to police their services, and frequently remove posts that are flagged as false. But on Instagram, those posts could still appear in user feeds - even though they were removed from the Explore and Discover sections of the app.

In the case of COVID-19 posts, Instagram is working with health authorities to identify and remove any posts with "the potential to cause harm to people who believe them." Those posts are being outright removed from users' feeds rather than flagged with warning labels.

The end result, Instagram said, would be to promote "credible information throughout our app" during the ongoing pandemic.

It's among several initiatives Facebook and its subsidiaries have undertaken as COVID-19 has rapidly spread around the world. Facebook added a "coronavirus information center" to the top of its news feed, made its Workplace service free to emergency workers, and the company is reportedly working with other tech giants and the US government to help track the spread of the disease.

There's also been one notable screw-up so far: Facebook was mistakenly removing legitimate news articles about coronavirus due to a software error.

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