Instagram to begin testing its new misinformation tool

16 Aug 2019

Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

In the latest bid to battle the scourge of misinformation on the platform, Instagram is rolling out a tool to flag spurious claims.

Instagram is to test a new tool which will allow users to report content they believe is misinformation. The Facebook-owned social media platform said it would launch the new trial feature at the end of August.

It said a new “false information” tag would be added to the existing reporting tools within the section where users can flag content as inappropriate. Instagram said it will use reports from the new tool to train artificial intelligence in how to proactively find and rate misinformation on the platform without the need for a report from users.

“This allows us to address Instagram-specific misinformation, in addition to content rated false on Facebook, which we also limit on Instagram,” said Stephanie Otway, a Facebook company spokesperson.

The platform has previously been heavily criticised for failing to remove harmful content, including posts around the themes of suicide and self-harm.

Ian Russell, the father of Molly Russell – the teenager who took her own life after viewing disturbing material online – has said he believes harmful content on social media was a contributory factor in his daughter’s death, after finding material relating to depression and suicide on her accounts.

He, alongside a number of charities and online safety groups, have urged social media firms such as Facebook to take stronger action against such content.

It has also faced heavy criticism for how it has been leveraged in the past to spread anti-vaccination misinformation and, as a result, announced that it would begin hiding search results for information on vaccines which has been verified as false by the World Health Organisation.

Facebook has similarly felt pressure to address the misinformation that can germinate on its app, and both will likely feel said pressure ramp up more intensely as elections near.

Instagram said the false information tool was an initial step in a more comprehensive approach from Facebook, which it said was investing heavily in tackling misinformation across its apps.

— PA Media, with additional reporting by Eva Short.

Social media icons on a smartphone screen. Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos.