Sometimes, after a long, rough day, a mindless scroll through hundreds of memes and ultra-photoshopped selfies is more than relaxing. But recently, this flow of content has been interrupted by flags marking posts that contain “false information.”
These “false information” pop-ups are a relatively new feature, and Instagram’s statement regarding them was only released in mid-December of 2019.
Both Facebook and Instagram have faced their share of criticism around choosing to leave up posts with fake information, especially last May, when Facebook declined to delete a distorted video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, instead adding a disclaimer for users saying the video had been faked.
The company claimed that it began working with third-party fact-checkers to help identify, review, and label false information that same month. Today, Instagram, along with parent company Facebook, seeks to expand its fact-checking program globally to allow fact-checking organizations around the world to assess and rate misinformation on the platform.
However, its choice to flag “false information,” even up to the point where images altered for illustrative purposes are blocked, has been questioned.
GHS senior Zehao Rong cautions those in blind support of Instagram’s latest move. “Because of the large amounts of content that goes up every second, it's impossible for the company to monitor every flag that a third-party site might post.”
He recommends the company instead monitor commercial, verified, and news accounts, which are much more dangerous in terms of spreading what is deemed false information.
Senior Lea Emanuelli added to his point, claiming that we’re reaching a dangerous territory.
“A lot of the time, people will block posts that don’t align with their opinions and call it “misinformation,” which diminishes the opinions that people are allowed to have or view. This ultimately leads to an echo chamber, in which people only see what they want to see, censoring other people’s opinions,” she says.
If people begin to notice companies over-filtering content that doesn’t match their agendas, it will hopefully raise a red flag in the online community and prompt people to think for themselves and fight for their rights as a social-media user.
So, after a long, rough day, maybe a mindless stroll through Instagram shouldn’t be so mindless after all.