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Instagram will let you browse posts with friends over video chat to promote social distancing

Instagram is ramping up its efforts to combat coronavirus-related misinformation on its platform while also giving people tools to promote healthy behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. These new measures are in addition to the company’s existing misinformation policy, which Instagram has been actively enforcing alongside parent company Facebook over the course of the virus’s worldwide spread over the last two months.

Part of this new effort includes a new feature Instagram is calling Co-Watching, which will let you browse posts with your friends over in-app video chat. The feature can be accessed by starting a video chat through the Instagram Direct messaging tab and tapping the photo icon in the bottom left of the video chat screen. It lets you look at saved, liked, and recommended posts together as a group.

Image: Instagram

The new misinformation measures include a new educational alert at the top of search results for connecting users with World Health Organization (WHO) resources; stickers promoting accurate and verifiable information from health authorities (like a “Stay Home” sticker to promote social distancing); more aggressive removal and moderation of coronavirus-related content from the Explore tab; and downranking of content in both the Instagram feed and in Stories that doesn’t meet the bar of third-party fact-checkers.

Image: Instagram

“If posts are rated false by third-party-fact checkers, we remove them from Explore and hashtag pages,” an Instagram spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “We also remove false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities as having the potential to cause harm to people who believe them.”

Prior to this new set of policies, Instagram has already begun taking action against coronavirus-related misinformation in the form of banning misleading ads for products claiming to offer cures or prevent people from contracting COVID-19 as well as temporary bans on ads and branded content promoting medical supplies like face masks and hand sanitizer. Earlier this month, Instagram removed the ability the search for COVID-19-themed augmented reality effects unless they were created in partnership with a “recognized health organization,” such as the WHO.

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