Instagram Bans Searches for COVID-19 AR Effects, Adds New Information Prompts in Home Feeds

After adding new information prompts and links to official resources in related search queries last week, Instagram is now expanding on its COVID-19 response tools, with additional information panels in the main feed and a ban on searches for coronavirus related AR masks.

As per Instagram:

To help people get relevant and up-to-date resources, we will start showing more information from WHO and local health ministries at the top of Instagram’s Feed in some countries.”

This is a more extreme informational measure from Instagram. For incidents in the past, Instagram has only added relevant links and prompts within related search queries, but now, reflecting the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s looking to make these alerts more prominent, by bringing them up to the top of the main feed.

Given the reach that Instagram has, this could be a hugely beneficial update – even if only a small percentage of users actually end up tapping through, it could contribute significantly to ensuring timely, accurate information on the crisis is being disseminated within communities. Not everyone has to check it, but those that do can share what they learn with others – and given the need for proactive, aggressive measures to stop the spread of the virus, this could prove very important.

In addition to this, Instagram has announced a ban on searches for AR effects related to the pandemic:

We will no longer allow people to search for COVID-19 related AR effects on Instagram, unless they were developed in partnership with a recognized health organization. This is part of our ongoing effort to better connect people with credible health information.”

This comes after concerns were raised with the flood of coronavirus filters on Insta, which many have reported as insensitive given the rising death toll resulting from the outbreak.

Instagram coronavirus filters

Some of these filters are also considered to be spreading misinformation about the virus, and raising anxiety. As such, Instagram’s move to make them harder to find makes sense.

And finally, Instagram is also adding a new sticker to thank health workers who have been working tirelessly to keep their communities safe.

Instagram thanks sticker

I’m not sure how effective Instagram’s stickers are, in terms of advocacy and support, but Instagram does seem to be keen on rolling them out as a means to contribute to the broader conversation.

As the COVID-19 outbreak rolls on, we’ll no doubt continue to see more updates like this, as social networks seek to establish better ways to connect users with relevant info and keep people informed.

And with more and more workers being told to stay home, social networks will indeed become a more critical information and interaction lifeline. 

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