The photo-sharing app will now let its users report posts that contain “false information.” Reported posts may be sent to one of Instagram’s fact-checkers and the post could eventually be hidden from Instagram’s Explore page and hashtag pages.
In other words: if you spot fake news or some other type of misinformation in the app, you can now report it, and it might be removed from the more public-facing areas of the app. A small step to be sure, but one that could maybe one day have a more lasting effect.
As Facebook has tried to combat conspiracy theories and weaponized fake news, Instagram has also emerged as a platform where misinformation can quickly spread.
But while Facebook has focused on down-ranking inaccurate information in its News Feed, Instagram has opted to focus on Explore and hashtag pages rather than its feed. Instagram also doesn’t alert users when they interact with a post that’s been debunked the way that Facebook does.
So, if a post is reported as false, and then debunked by fact-checkers, it will still show up in the feeds of people who follow the account, it just won’t be quite as easy for non-followers to stumble upon it.
There’s also no guarantee that every post that’s reported as false will be routed to fact-checkers. Otway says Instagram uses a combination of factors to determine whether a reported post is passed on to third-party fact-checkers.
If all that sounds like a fairly incremental step, that’s because it is. (Instagram still only works with U.S.-based fact-checkers for now.) But it is one that could lay important groundwork for future improvements, according to Instagram. Otway says that the new user reports will be used to help train Instagram’s AI technology that could eventually automatically detect some kinds of false information.
In other words: report now so that Instagram might one day get better.