Instagram revealed a host of updates related to the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, highlighted by the rollout of Co-Watching, which enables people to view posts on the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network together while they are video chatting.
Instagram said in a blog post that in an effort to reduce the spread of misinformation, accounts related to Covid-19 will be removed from recommendations, and coronavirus-related content will be removed from its Explore tab unless the source is a credible health organization.
Content in feed and Stories that has been downranked by Facebook’s network of third-party fact-checkers will be downranked and removed from Explore and hashtag pages, as will false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by global health organizations or local health authorities.
Users who search for information on the coronavirus or Covid-19 will start seeing an educational message connecting them to resources from the World Health Organization and local health ministries. Instagram said this feature will be available globally in the coming weeks.
People in the countries most affected by the pandemic have seen a notice atop their feed with reliable resources from health organizations, and those resources have been highlighted when users view related hashtags.
Misleading ads for coronavirus-related products that are intended to create urgency, guarantee cures or prevent the spread of the disease are already prevented on the platform, and Instagram temporarily banned ads and branded content promoting certain medical supplies, including facemasks.
Instagram also disabled the ability to search for Covid-19-related augmented reality effects, unless they were developed in partnership with recognized health organizations.
The company added that when people report content, it will prioritize instances with the greatest potential to harm its community, as part of its efforts to keep its content reviewers safe by letting them stay home.
On to a more fun feature: Instagram had been testing co-watching during video calls as early as last April, uncovered by blogger and developer Jane Manchun Wong, and the feature is officially debuting at a good time to help people cope with social distancing.
Co-Watching enables users to view Instagram posts together with their friends during video chats, and the feature can be activated by starting a video chat (tap the video chat icon in the Direct inbox or an existing thread in Direct) and then viewing, saving, liking and suggesting videos and photos by tapping the photo icon in the bottom-left corner of the ongoing video chat.
Instagram shared news on stickers, as well: New stickers are rolling out to help people share accurate coronavirus-related information in Stories, including reminders to wash your hands and distance yourself from others. They will be available in the application’s camera in the coming days.
And a new Covid-19 section was added to the Donation sticker to enable people to quickly identify relevant nonprofits. The Donation sticker will also be rolled out in other countries.
Instagram concluded in its blog post, “We will continue to prioritize safety, connecting people with accurate information and encouraging support as the Covid-19 outbreak evolves.”