Fact checkers will start patrolling Instagram for bogus posts

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Instagram fact checking
Instagram will use fact-checking teams to identify false information.
Photo: Instagram

As part of a promise to choke off fake news and conspiracy theories on its platforms, Facebook will begin sniffing out false posts on its photo-sharing app, Instagram.

Facebook reportedly has 52 “fact-checking partners” in 30 countries to flag dubious posts, a program it has been building since December 2016, one month after a contentious presidential election that was widely considered influenced by bad actors using social media.

Fact checking on Facebook has been underway since the midterm elections and testing on Instagram, using the same team and algorithms, is set to begin this week, according to the Poynter Institute’s news blog. Poynter, an influential journalism educational center, partnered with Facebook to establish its international fact-checking network.

Fact-checking Instagram

False images and memes won’t be necessarily deleted, just harder to find. Bogus posts may remain visible on the author’s feed but will be wiped from hashtag searches and Instagram’s Explore page.

“Our approach to misinformation is the same as Facebook’s — when we find (misinformation), rather than remove it, we’ll reduce its distribution,” Instagram spokesperson Stephanie Otway, told Poynter. “We can use image recognition technology to find the same piece of content on Instagram and take automatic action.”

There are challenges to using the same fact-checking teams for both Facebook and Instagram, according to Aaron Sharockman, executive director of PolitiFact. False information is more difficult to identify on Instagram since hyperlinks don’t work in captions or comments.

Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are the only social media sites attempt to fact-check content, according to Poynter. Apple is also aggressively fighting misinformation, removing hate-based, conspiracy-promoting podcasts from iTunes and deleting questionable websites from Safari’s “Siri Suggested” search results.

Instagram is looking at issuing alerts that educate users on false information during the fact-checking test phase.

“Instagram is a place where a lot of people, particularly young people, get their news. And we know it’s a space where misinformation can live,” Sharockman said. “So it only makes sense that Facebook would expand its work with fact-checkers into this new space. It’s definitely a good step.”

Source: Poynter Institute