Instagram could become a new platform for sharing disinformation about the 2020 election, because propagandists are relying on images and proxy accounts to create and circulate fake content, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.
- "Disinformation is increasingly based on images as opposed to text," said Paul Barrett, author of an NYU report, "Disinformation and the 2020 Election."
- "Instagram is obviously well-suited for that kind of meme-based activity."
Why it matters: This makes it harder for social-media platforms to enforce their rules, remove content and suspend accounts.
- Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center, said: "Instagram isn’t built for virality in the same way as other platforms. So it does require other kinds of ingenuity to abuse the platform in other ways."
The big picture: Instagram is an engagement powerhouse that attracts far younger users than its parent company, Facebook.
- And it drove more engagement with Russian disinformation in 2016 than Facebook, according to the NYU report.
- In a statement, Instagram said: "We know that our adversaries are always changing their techniques so we are constantly working to stay ahead."
Experts say the tactics of the people looking to spread disinformation about 2020 have gotten savvier since 2016, so it'll be harder to crack down on it.
- Researchers are keeping an eye on activities like accounts that share celebrity gossip to build an audience, then pivot to political content as an election nears.
What to watch: "The more big platforms are cracking down," said Ben Nimmo of Graphika, a social-media analytics company, "the more they’re forcing the bad actors to look elsewhere."