Instagram is embracing its potential as a news source, employing its ubiquity to distribute coronavirus prevention techniques through a new call-out at the top of its homescreen feed. In some countries, Instagram will show a link to information from the World Health Organization and local health ministries, along with a message like this: “Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus: See the latest information from the World Health Organization so you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. — Go to who.int”.
An Instagram spokesperson tells TechCrunch that the notice will start appearing in countries that have seen significant impact from the virus.
Additionally, Instagram is preventing users from searching for COVID-19-related augmented reality effects unless they were made in partnership with legitimate health organizations. This could limit the spread of disinformation or insensitive jokes about the virus. Instagram was already sending false information to fact checkers and listing official health sources atop the search results for coronavirus-related queries.
To help the company stay focused, Facebook is also shutting down the MSQRD app it acquired in 2016 to jumpstart is AR face filters feature. MSQRD will become unavailable on April 13th, though its tech is already fully integrated into Facebook and Instagram.
Meanwhile, on Snapchat, the company prohibits partners from sharing misinformation, relying on its closed platform to prevent the false news hoaxes that have plagued open platforms like Facebook. Snapchat is also highlighting health information shared by its Discover partners, including NBC’s Stay Tuned, Sky News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN and NowThis. Those include (these links may only open to content on mobile):
- Washington Post explained the proper way to wash your hands
- WSJ looked at how COVID-19 spread across the world
- SkyNews Explains (UK) breaks down how to self-isolate
These are smart efforts by social platforms that know they might get opened by more people more often than some traditional news sources. With over 1 billion monthly users on Instagram and over 200 million daily users on Snapchat, they have the power to spread vital information and act as a new form of the emergency broadcast system.