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Instagram drops 'recent' posts from hashtag pages ahead of the election

Instagram has been slower to deal with misinformation in the past.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
October 29, 2020
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POLAND - 2020/10/06: In this photo illustration an Instagram logo displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Instagram is taking a new step to prevent the spread of misinformation ahead of the presidential election. The app is temporarily disabling “recent” posts from appearing on hashtag pages in order “to reduce the real-time spread of potentially harmful content that could pop up around the election,” the company said.

Historically, Instagram has been slower to deal with conspiracy theories and misinformation than Facebook. In 2016, the photo sharing app was “the most effective tool used by the IRA to conduct its information operations campaign," according to a subsequent report on Russia’s election interference from the Senate Intelligence Committee. And the app’s fact-checking policies only fully caught up to Facebook’s this year.

The change comes as Facebook takes more aggressive steps to prepare for an uncertain election, company officials have said could result in violence or civil unrest. The company has also updated its policies to restrict political ads in the week before election day and will bar all political ads after the polls close. The company has planned for how it would handle a candidate trying to prematurely claim victory, or refusing to concede the election. 

During the company’s third-quarter earnings call Thursday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was worried about what might happen after election day. “I'm worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there is a risk of civil unrest across the country,” Zuckerberg said. “Given this, companies like ours need to go well beyond what we've done before.”

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