All posts in “instagram”

Why Instagram should take that viral hoax seriously

By now, you’ve probably heard about that ridiculous, nearly decade-old privacy hoax that went viral on Instagram thanks to a bunch of clueless celebrities.

And while it’s easy to laugh at, it has some pretty serious implications for the company’s billion plus users.

That the hoax, which has been repeatedly debunked over the years, was able to spread like virtual wildfire across Instagram is concerning to say the least. It shows just how easily conspiracy theories and propaganda can spread, with Instagram doing little to stop it. 

While there’s plenty to criticize about Facebook’s misinformation-fighting, the company will at least debunk conspiracy theories and attempt to push them out of sight in its News Feed. The process has been criticized for moving too slowly at times, but there are signs it’s been effective at reducing the spread of fake news.

Instagram, on the other hand, has only just begun to work with third-party fact checkers. Moreover, when a post is debunked by fact checkers, Instagram will only remove it from public-facing areas of the app, like Explore and hashtag pages. The same posts can still be freely shared in users’ feeds and Stories, and Instagram will make no attempt to make them less visible. 

And, as we’ve learned, all it takes is a handful of ignorant celebs for a baseless conspiracy theory to spread to millions in just a few hours. In this case, the conspiracy theory was relatively benign, but that might not always be the case. 

If nothing else, this Instagram hoax proves that the platform is particularly susceptible to conspiracy  theories, and that the company will do little to stop blatantly wrong information from going viral. Whether it’s “inappropriate content” or anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, the company has repeatedly shown that it will only address misinformation in public sections of the app, not in users’ feeds.

The ironic twist here is that Instagram is likely reluctant to mess with feed posts at least in part because of a whole other conspiracy theory: shadow banning, the idea that some cabal of Instagram employees decides to reduce the visibility of some accounts for real or perceived infractions. Instagram has repeatedly denied that it does this.

But fears of further angering Instagram influencers is a poor excuse for failing to act. Facebook buries fake news and conspiracy theories in News Feed, so why won’t Instagram do the same?

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f92316%252f6d72d8b8 4dd1 4119 9d02 4248148242e3.png%252foriginal.png?signature=u5heihvqvtqk5twmmvsxdhuubky=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Instagram will pay researchers to find apps abusing their data

Instagram is getting serious about rooting out third-party apps that break its rules.

The company announced a new bug bounty program specifically aimed at finding third-party apps that misuse Instagram data. Facebook put the program in place last spring, but it didn’t apply to Instagram until now.

Instagram’s new bug bounty program comes less than two weeks after Business Insider reported that HYP3R, once touted as one of the company’s “preferred marketing partners,” had scraped location data and other info from millions of Instagram users. It was later removed for violating Instagram’s terms of service. 

The incident was a reminder that Instagram is not safe from the data misuse that has plagued Facebook. Besides HYP3R, hackers have successfully impersonated Instagram analytics services in order to hijack high-profile accounts. 

“Our goal is to help protect the information people share on Instagram and encourage security researchers to report potential abuse to us so we can quickly take action,” Instagram security engineer Dan Gurfinkel wrote in a blog post. 

An Instagram spokesperson declined to share how much its new bug bounty program would pay out, but pointed to Facebook’s 2018 bug bounty payouts, which averaged about $1,500 across more than 700 reports. More serious flaws can earn an average of $40,000. 

Additionally, Instagram is starting an invitation-only bug bounty program to test its new forthcoming shopping features. Called “checkout,” the feature will let users buy products from brands without leaving the Instagram app. 

The company has been testing the service with a handful of brands since March. And though Instagram hasn’t shared when checkout might be more widely available, the fact that it’s inviting security researchers to “stress test” the feature suggests it’s moving closer to an official launch.

Cms%252f2019%252f8%252fa26d5139 d583 fbbd%252fthumb%252f00001.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=rn wtn69lc26deyenug45bgg5k4=&source=https%3a%2f%2fvdist.aws.mashable

Instagram tests a serious Boomerang upgrade

It looks like Instagram is getting ready to finally revamp one of its most popular features: Boomerang.

Instagram is readying as many as five new styles of looping video for its app, according to code discovered in its Android app.

The new effects were spotted by researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who has a solid track record of uncovering unreleased features in social media apps. According to her findings, here are some of the new types of Boomerang effects coming to Instagram:

  • “Hold,” which puts a slight delay at the end of a clip so there’s a bit of a pause between loops

  • “Dynamic,” which speeds up at the end of the clip

  • “Slowmo,” which loops the clip in slow motion

  • Two called “duo,” which appear to be more like a classic Boomerang, just set at different speeds

Those may not sound like huge changes, but they could open up a lot of new possibilities for Boomerangs, which have looked pretty much the same since Instagram first introduced the feature in 2015. You can get a better idea of what these might look like in action on Wong’s blog.

An Instagram spokesperson declined to comment. 

Besides the new Boomerang features, Wong uncovered a few other intriguing changes. One would add Instagram’s Layout, the app that lets you make photo collages, to the Stories camera. Another would allow users to send comments to friends the same way you can share a post via direct messages.

Another long overdue feature she spotted: notification filters. Instead of one endless list of all your notifications, which can be especially overwhelming if you have a big following, filters would let you sort notifications by type.

No word on when these features might be officially released, but if they’re as close to being ready as Wong suggests, we might not have much longer to wait.

Cms%252f2019%252f8%252ff2d6e5bd 273c 71bc%252fthumb%252f00001.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=lgnktiv x6hry2qny54snpj dq8=&source=https%3a%2f%2fvdist.aws.mashable

Instagram will let users report ‘false information’

Instagram is, very slowly, ramping up its tools to fight misinformation.

The photo-sharing app will now let its users report posts that contain “false information.” Reported posts may be sent to one of Instagram’s fact-checkers and the post could eventually be hidden from Instagram’s Explore page and hashtag pages. 

In other words: if you spot fake news or some other type of misinformation in the app, you can now report it, and it might be removed from the more public-facing areas of the app. A small step to be sure, but one that could maybe one day have a more lasting effect.

Instagram previously announced that it would hide posts fact-checkers had deemed “false,” but there was no way for individual users to report posts. 

“Starting today, people can let us know if they see posts on Instagram they believe may be false,” Instagram spokesperson Stephanie Otway said in a statement. “We’re investing heavily in limiting the spread of misinformation across our apps, and we plan to share more updates in the coming months.”

Instagram's reporting feature now has "false information."

Instagram’s reporting feature now has “false information.”

Image: instagram

Instagram has also been working with fact checkers.

Instagram has also been working with fact checkers.

Image: instagram

As Facebook has tried to combat conspiracy theories and weaponized fake news, Instagram has also emerged as a platform where misinformation can quickly spread. 

But while Facebook has focused on down-ranking inaccurate information in its News Feed, Instagram has opted to focus on Explore and hashtag pages rather than its feed. Instagram also doesn’t alert users when they interact with a post that’s been debunked the way that Facebook does.

So, if a post is reported as false, and then debunked by fact-checkers, it will still show up in the feeds of people who follow the account, it just won’t be quite as easy for non-followers to stumble upon it. 

There’s also no guarantee that every post that’s reported as false will be routed to fact-checkers. Otway says Instagram uses a combination of factors to determine whether a reported post is passed on to third-party fact-checkers. 

If all that sounds like a fairly incremental step, that’s because it is. (Instagram still only works with U.S.-based fact-checkers for now.) But it is one that could lay important groundwork for future improvements, according to Instagram. Otway says that the new user reports will be used to help train Instagram’s AI technology that could eventually automatically detect some kinds of false information. 

In other words: report now so that Instagram might one day get better.

Cms%252f2019%252f8%252ff2d6e5bd 273c 71bc%252fthumb%252f00001.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=lgnktiv x6hry2qny54snpj dq8=&source=https%3a%2f%2fvdist.aws.mashable

Instagram says growth hackers are behind spate of fake Stories views

If you use Instagram and have noticed a bunch of strangers watching your Stories in recent months — accounts that don’t follow you and seem to be Russian — well, you’re not alone.

Nor are you being primed for a Russian disinformation campaign. At least, probably not. But you’re right to smell a fake.

TechCrunch’s very own director of events, Leslie Hitchcock, flagged the issue to us — complaining of “eerie” views on her Instagram Stories in the last couple of months from random Russian accounts, some seemingly genuine (such as artists with several thousand followers) and others simply “weird” looking.

A thread on Reddit also poses the existential question: “Why do Russian Models (that don’t follow me) keep watching my Instagram stories?” (The answer to which is: Not for the reason you hope.)

Instagram told us it is aware of the issue and is working on a fix.

It also said this inauthentic activity is not related to misinformation campaigns but is rather a new growth hacking tactic — which involves accounts paying third parties to try to boost their profile via the medium of fake likes, followers and comments (in this case by generating inauthentic activity by watching the Instagram Stories of people they have no real interest in in the hopes that’ll help them pass off as real and net them more followers).

Eerie is spot on. Some of these growth hackers probably have banks of phones set up where Instagram Stories are ‘watched’ without being watched. (Which obviously isn’t going to please any advertisers paying to inject ads into Stories… )

A UK social media agency called Hydrogen also noticed the issue back in June — blogging then that: “Mass viewing of Instagram Stories is the new buying followers of 2019”, i.e. as a consequence of the Facebook-owned social network cracking down on bots and paid-for followers on the platform.

So, tl;dr, squashing fakes is a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. Let’s call it Zuckerberg’s bane.

“Our research has found that several small social media agencies are using this as a technique to seem like they are interacting with the public,” Hydrogen also wrote, before going on to offer sage advice that: “This is not a good way to build a community, and we believe that Instagram will begin cracking down on this soon.”

Instagram confirmed to us it is attempting to crack down — saying it’s working to try to get rid of this latest eyeball-faking flavor of inauthentic activity. (We paraphrase.)

It also said that, in the coming months, it will introduce new measures to reduce such activity — specifically from Stories — but without saying exactly what these will be.

We also asked about the Russian element but Instagram was unable to provide any intelligence on why a big proportion of the fake Stories views seem to be coming from Russia (without any love). So that remains a bit of a mystery.

What can you do right now to prevent your Instagram Stories from being repurposed as a virtue-less signalling machine for sucking up naive eyeballs?

Switching your profile to private is the only way to thwart the growth hackers, for now.

Albeit, that means you’re limiting who you can reach on the Instagram platform as well as who can reach you.

When we suggested to Hitchcock she switch her account to private she responded with a shrug, saying: “I like to engage with brands.”