Instagram is expanding its efforts to combat COVID-19 misinformation, plus give people more ways to entertain themselves as they self-isolate to avoid the spread of the virus. Today, the company is launching a feature called Co-Watching, which will give Instagram users a new way to browse the app over video chat with up to six friends at a time.
It's simple: From your Direct messages inbox, you can start a video call with someone and then, with the quick tap of a photo icon button, together look at your liked or saved pictures and videos, as well as others that Instagram may recommend (kind of like the Explore Tab). It's worth noting that you won't be sharing your phone's screen completely, and you'll have to manually select the media you want to view with your friends, so there's nothing to worry about if you have some precious, secret pictures saved.
Safety first — As part of its ongoing work to promote accurate information about the novel coronavirus, Instagram plans to start displaying a new educational message from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Search, which will give people information on how to connect with resources from WHO and local health nonprofits. The app is also going to be launching more stickers for people to use with the camera in Stories — similar to the Stay Home one that you've probably been seeing all over your feed lately — including some that will remind people to wash their hands and continue to practice social-distancing.
Most importantly perhaps, Instagram says it will keep keep cracking down on bad actors spreading fake news on COVID-19. This means the company is going to start removing harmful content from appearing in Explore and COVID-19 profiles from account recommendations, unless those have been posted by a legitimate health organization. In addition to that, Instagram will be relying more on third-party fact checkers to down-rank posts that show up in feed and Stories, while at the same time helping people find nonprofits to support (via donation stickers) during the fight against COVID-19.
Tough work— All these changes Instagram is implementing, which will be rolling out globally in the coming weeks, are on top of the work it began doing weeks ago. The company has already started hiding coronavirus-related augmented reality filters, as well as blocking certain hashtags that promote COVID-19 misinformation.
When you consider that Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users, it's obvious that this battle (like others it's currently fighting) won't be easy to win. But, at least for now, the company seems to be doing all it can to slow down the spread of fake news on its app, all while also giving people new features to keep connecting with their friends during what can feel like a very lonely period for many.
There will be much more ahead for Instagram to do, without a doubt, and it will have to do everything it can to ensure things on its app don't get out of control. For everyone's sake, let's hope it can keep it up.