Instagram said Wednesday that the social network and one of its fact-checking partners had removed a disclaimer labeling a manipulated photo of rainbow-colored mountains “false,” effectively reversing a fact-check. “Upon feedback from the community, NewsMobile [an Instagram fact-checking partner] reviewed the fact-check and have changed their rating. Now that the fact-check is removed, it’s no longer being labelled on Instagram as false,” said Raki Wane, an Instagram spokeswoman.
Instagram, a subsidiary of Facebook, started working with independent, third-party fact-checkers in May 2019 to combat misinformation and expanded the operation several months later. One partner, NewsMobile, had applied a “false” label to a viral photo of Death Valley, California that a digital artist had added rainbow hues to and others had reposted. A San Francisco photographer posted screenshots of the photo and its “false” tag to Facebook with the portentous caption “Looks like Instagram x Facebook will start tagging false photos/digital art.”
The label stoked fear, inspiring the Vice headline “Instagram is about to start hiding photoshopped images” and similar ones on websites ranging from photography blogs to fashion websites. One tech news site voiced its discontent with Instagram’s purported policy change with the headline “Instagram’s decision to hide photoshopped images is a disservice to art.” There was, however, no confirmed evidence of a widespread removal of edited images. The photographer who originally posted the screenshots later said, “maybe not enough research was done to really back this all up.”
Instagram’s initial statement to The Daily Beast on the matter, given Tuesday, linked to the fact-check and affirmed it: “Our partners independently assess false information and once they rate content as false, our goal is to give users that context, wherever they may see it. If a fact-checker rates content as false or party false, we feel it’s our responsibility to let everyone who sees that content know that it has been debunked.”