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Instagram cracks down on coronavirus AR effects

The app will ban filters that claim to "diagnose" users.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
March 13, 2020
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Instagram is taking new steps to combat the spread of coronavirus-related misinformation. The company has removed augmented reality effects that claim to "diagnose" or "treat" coronavirus, and will begin hiding other coronavirus-themed augmented reality effects from search results.

"We've removed previously-published effects and are rejecting all new effects, which claim to predict, diagnose, treat, or cure coronavirus," Facebook wrote in an update to its AR creators. Other coronavirus-themed AR effects that don't break company rules will be hidden from search results unless they were "developed in partnership with a recognized health organization."

As the coronavirus epidemic has spread around the world, a number of coronavirus-themed AR filters have sprung up on Instagram. The user-generated effects depict face masks and animated virus particles, as well as "What are you" style filters that "quiz" users on whether or not they have coronavirus, or what brand of toilet paper they should "panic buy."

Additionally, Instagram will place messages linking to information from the World health Organization at the top of users' feeds in countries where there have been confirmed cases COVID-19. These notices will be appearing over the next couple weeks, according to the company.

The updates are the latest way that Instagram has sought to prevent misinformation about the coronavirus from spreading. The app has previously cracked down on hashtags used to spread false information and has promoted the WHO and other official health organizations in search results.

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