Instagram announced in December that it was rolling out a false information warning feature that used third-party fact-checkers to reduce the spread of misinformation. But the feature is now labeling some digitally manipulated art as false information and hiding photos from digital artists and photographers from the Explore and hashtag pages.
According to PetaPixel, photographer Toby Harriman spotted the false information warning pop-up on a photo of a man standing in front of some rainbow-colored hills. “As much as I do love it to help better associate real vs photoshop. I also have a huge respect for digital art and don’t want to have to click through barriers to see it,” Harriman wrote.
The photo, first taken by photographer Christopher Hainey and digitally altered by artist Ramzy Masri, does have a history of going viral with misinformation attached to it. The false information warning links to an article from fact-checking website NewsMobile, which debunks the numerous Instagram posts that shared the photo as “Death Valley National Park.”
Artists and photographers shouldn’t panic about the feature flagging their digitally manipulated work since it isn’t targeting all Photoshopped photos — just the ones that have been identified by fact-checking websites as false. But though the feature may be useful for combating the spread of misinformation, it does have the potential to be an obstacle for digital artists who want their work to be seen.
The false information warning is an extra step for people to have to tap through to see the post, and Instagram explained in its blog post that the platform will make “content from accounts that repeatedly receive these labels harder to find by removing it from Explore and hashtag pages.” Artists can’t control when their work will go viral or what kinds of misinformation others will attach to that work. There’s a chance that an artist’s account could be labeled as one that frequently spreads false information, even if it’s not their intention, which could affect their visibility on the platform.
Facebook and Instagram have faced their share of criticism around choosing to leave up posts with fake information. Last May, Facebook declined to delete a distorted video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), opting to add a disclaimer for users saying the video had been faked. The company applied the same policy in June when it decided to leave up a deepfake video of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Instagram.
“We will treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “If third-party fact-checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages.” Facebook has been embroiled in controversy for the last few months regarding its revised political ad policy, which now says it will not subject posts from politicians to fact-checking.