Facebook-owned Instagram is following its parent company’s lead and trying to make legitimate sources of information about the coronavirus more prominent while removing “harmful misinformation” and “[b]locking and restricting hashtags being used to spread misinformation” and “[b]anning ad exploiting the situation.”
Pointing at the pros — Instagram announced the new measure on Twitter, which has already taken its own measures to do likewise. When users tap on a hashtag related to COVID-19 or search the term “coronavirus” Instagram is showing accounts from the World Health Organization (@WHO), the Center for Disease Control (@CDC) and local health authorities’ accounts where applicable.
Crises encourage cons — One of the challenges social media platforms face during the unfolding health crisis is the prevalence of fake “cures” and other con artists trying to capitalize on the fear surrounding the virus. Even YouTube has had to contend with creators adding “coronavirus” to their video’s titles in an effort to boost traffic. Because while a crisis brings out the best in some people, it also brings out the absolute worst in others.
Instagram’s moves — like those from Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter — remind us that these platforms absolutely have the means the ability to control the content people post to them when they’re sufficiently motivated to do so. Namely when not doing so could affect their profitability.