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Instagram adds ‘false information’ labels to prevent fake news from going viral

Facebook says it’s getting more serious about preventing false information from going viral on Instagram.

The app will add “false information” labels that obscure posts that have been debunked by Facebook’s fact checkers, the company announced. The labels, which will roll out over the next month, will appear on posts in Stories and Instagram’s main feed. Users will still be able to view the original post, but they’ll have to click “See Post” to get there. 

The update comes less than two weeks after the Senate Intelligence Committee released the second volume of its report on interference in the 2016 election, which called Instagram “the most effective tool” used by the Internet Research Campaign. 

Instagram will also warn users who attempt to share a post that has previously been debunked. Before the post goes live, they’ll see a notice that fact checkers say it contains false information, with a link to more information. They can still opt to share the post with their followers, but it will appear with the “false information label.”

Instagram will warn users who share posts that have been de-bunked by false checkers.

Instagram will warn users who share posts that have been de-bunked by false checkers.

Image: Instagram

Instagram has been working with third-party fact checkers for some time, but up until now the service was far less aggressive with misinformation than Facebook. 

While Facebook down-ranks debunked posts in its News Feed, Instagram hasn’t take similar steps, and has instead focused on removing those posts from public-facing areas of the app, like hashtag pages and its Explore section. 

Now, Instagram says it will act on posts in users’ feeds in an effort to help prevent false information from going viral.

“In addition to clearer labels, we’re also working to take faster action to prevent misinformation from going viral, especially given that quality reporting and fact-checking takes time,” the company writes. “In many countries, including in the US, if we have signals that a piece of content is false, we temporarily reduce its distribution pending review by a third-party fact-checkers.

The steps announced Monday are the most aggressive that Facebook has taken to reduce the spread of viral misinformation on Instagram.

The company has long downplayed the role Instagram played in 2016 election interference. Facebook previously told Congress that only 20 million Instagram users saw posts from the IRA, though experts have long warned the numbers were likely much higher. The Senate report released earlier this month revealed that the top two most popular IRA-run Instagram accounts alone generated more than 46 million interactions.

“On the basis of engagement and audience following measures, the Instagram social media platform was the most effective tool used by the IRA to conduct its information operations campaign,” the report said. 

Instagram chief Adam Mosseri acknowledged on Twitter last week that Instagram was “still playing catch up” in its fact checking efforts.