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Instagram Directly Responsible For Spread Of False News About COVID-19, Report Finds

Instagram marked for spreading false news on COVID-19 and other sensitive issues

It’s no secret that Instagram is awash with false news and claims about COVID-19, vaccines, and the 2020 U.S elections. However, its algorithm was directly responsible for the spread of false data on these topics. This claim has been made in a new report from a department responsible for tracking online misinformation.

CEO for Countering Digital Hate, Imran Ahmed, said: “The Instagram algorithm is driving people further and further into their own realities, but also splitting those realities apart so that some people are getting no misinformation whatsoever and some people are being driven more and more misinformation.”

From the period starting from September 2020 to ending at November 2020, the social application Instagram suggested 104 posts having severe misinformation on the most prevailing topics online.

The automated recommendations popped up at several places on Instagram. It is related to artificial intelligence works that gather the information relevant to a person’s interests. A new ‘suggested posts’ bar appeared in August 2020, along with an ‘explore’ feature which takes users to the content that might interest them.

The research is the latest effort to trace down how social media platforms ‘recommendations systems’ contribute towards the spread of misinformation. The study says that this trend of spreading fake information online has paced up more in the last year than ever before. The ones conducting the study believe that the Covid-19 situation and the U.S elections are the key prospects that fueled this trend.

Critics believe that despite the efforts to take down false information, it is still becoming more prevalent. It is seen that the social network algorithms will continue sending those eager to find more dubious claims down a rabbit hole of even extreme content.

Ahmed said, “I was particularly concerned by the introduction last year of “suggested posts” on Instagram — a feature geared at getting users to spend more time on the app.”

Users are now shown more of the content at the bottom of their feed from accounts they don’t even follow. These suggestions are based on the content which a user has already absorbed earlier.

“Putting it into the timeline is really powerful,” Ahmed said. “Most people wouldn’t realize they’re being fed information from accounts they’re not following. They think, ‘These are people I’ve chosen to follow and trust,’ and that’s what makes it so dangerous.”

The department for tackling Digital hate said Instagram should stop making recommendations posts until it no longer promotes harmful misinformation. The center said that Instagram and Facebook should take out all posts relevant to COVID-19 or any other sensitive prevailing issue.

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