Instagram warns of coronavirus disinformation infecting augmented reality
Instagram is fighting coronavirus misinformation in augmented reality.
On Friday, Instagram sent a note to its AR community telling people to avoid spreading bad information about the pandemic. “We’ve removed previously published effects and are rejecting all new effects, which claim to predict, diagnose, treat or cure coronavirus,” Instagram said through its Spark AR program, which is a community of graphic designers who build augmented reality features for the app. Facebook owns Instagram.
Instagram also said that it would no longer allow people to search for coronavirus-related AR effects. There could still be filters related to the virus, they just won’t be easy to discover. Those that provide bad information won’t be approved.
Instagram said it would allow reputable health organizations to create AR filters, however.
Meanwhile, on Snapchat, there also have been coronavirus-related filters. The company does not allow misinformation in Lenses, either, a Snapchat spokesman said. Lenses are Snapchat's name for AR filters.
Snapchat and Instagram have programs that allow independent creators to build their own filters. Most of the AR effects related to coronavirus are meant to be lighthearted, like filters that create a virtual surgical mask on the wearer’s face. Other filters have claimed to diagnose coronavirus by scanning a person’s face and returning a result.
For instance, a Snapchat Lens called "coronavirus test" pretends to check for the illness. The effect shows a loading bar as it progresses, and it spits out a result, saying, "Don't take medical advice from filters."
Snapchat declined to comment about that Lens, but it appears to be the kind of filter that Instagram identified as inappropriate for its platform.
More serious AR is making its way to Snapchat, too. On Friday, Snapchat and the World Health Organization created a filter that shares best practices about the virus.
Coronavirus, first appeared widely in China in January, has been declared a pandemic. On Friday, a state of emergency was declared in the U.S. One of the challenges for public health officials has been the rampant misinformation popping up on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and elsewhere online. It has been a test for the services already on high alert for bad actors, who use major events like elections to sow disinformation.
This appears to be the first time AR has been cited as a target of fake news.