A New Challenger Appears - Instagram Joins Social Media Platforms In Fray To Counter Pandemic Misinformation Online

Instagram has recently announced two new features in an attempt to further curb the spread of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic on its platform.

Instagram is joining the fray in the wake of multiple media sites making and implementing similar features in the wake of heavy online misinformation and paranoia. A short recap about all measures taken by Instagram’s peers may help us better contextualize the importance of its own efforts. Facebook, the app’s parent company, has taken to notify users when they’ve encountered posts with false information, along with banning all parties at fault. Twitter, while also flagging posts, has started adding warning labels to tweets with “factually questionable” information, while simultaneously decreasing the reach and interaction of such tweets. Notable efforts in their own rights, and certainly proactive steps towards stemming the flow of toxicity from communities such as the anti-vaxxers and pandemic deniers. Now, let’s have a look at what Instagram offers to its users.

The first anti-pandemic measure is less centered around preventing misinformation and is more focused on general safety. In areas where COVID-19 cases are seeing a spike, notifications will be sent to users from those areas. The notification, highlighting the spike, will also be accompanied with contact info, connecting the local community to relevant centers such as the WHO, CDC, and so forth. This measure seeks to prevent users from contracting the virus in the first place by automatically informing them to stay alert and on the lookout. A very different approach, it should be noted, from other social media outlets that have remained focused on tackling misinformation.

The second feature revolves around community interaction with the app itself. If users are found searching for COVID-19, vaccine, or any other terms linked to the pandemic, they will also be provided credible resources (such as the aforementioned WHO and CDC) to help make wading through the mix of reliable and unreliable online information easier. While such links to factually sound sources have been spotted all across major social media interfaces such as YouTube, and the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter, it’s nice to see Instagram take initiative with spreading factual information online.

In addition to Instagram’s early pledge to ban hashtags that lead to misleading or conspiracy-laced information, it feels like the app has a solid grasp on their plan to tackle online paranoia-propagating groups. And not a moment too late. With the recent development and launching of vaccines across the world, and reactionary tirades from the Anti Vaccination Movement online, social media conglomerates have started moving in on them at the right time.

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