Facebook owned Instagram is now taking the problem of innumerous fake, bot or outright suspicious accounts a bit more seriously. And why not? Problems such as misleading information and fake news have become rampant on social media platforms these days, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdowns. While social media platforms have started taking steps to reduce the impact of this problem, it seems that Instagram has gone a step further than the rest to bring down an iron hammer on all accounts that they deem suspicious enough. There is one solution for stopping the misleading and inappropriate information that is spread on social media like Instagram, Twitter by some account holders or bots, and that is asking for approved Government ID.
The social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc will apparently keep an eye out for what they call “inauthentic behaviour” from accounts. Once they suspect that any account has taken part in any such activity, such accounts will be needed to submit their government (approved) identification proof. Failing compliance, such suspected accounts may get entirely deactivated or “receive reduced distribution”, which implies that they will have their posts and shared content ranked down in the feeds of their followers and other users. This is a bit similar to Facebook’s policy that requires people running popular pages on their social media platform to get their identities verified.
While this Government ID proof feature by Instagram is said not to affect majority of the accounts, the targeted accounts will include those engaging in, as mentioned earlier, “inauthentic behaviour”, those whose most of the followers belong to some other country than the suspicious account as well as accounts that have signs of being a bot account.
Instagram released some statements to give clarity on the matter. They said that “starting today, we will begin asking people to confirm who ’s behind an account when we see a pattern of potential inauthentic behaviour. This includes accounts potentially engaged in coordinated in authentic behavior, or when we see the majority of someone’s followers are in a different country to their location, or if we find signs of automation, such as bot accounts.”
They further stated that “We can ask you to provide an ID for things like your identity, age or account information. In most cases, you will have to give us your full name and a photo or copy of something that includes your full name and it shows information about your age. For this you have many more options. These options include photo IDs issued by the government, IDs of non-governmental institutions. In some cases, you may also be asked to take a selfie to confirm that the photo has been given to you.”
To address security concerns, Instagram said that the Government ID data will be securely stored with the company while they ignore any other sensitive information than what is required. The identification proof, they said, will be deleted within 30 days of complete review and verification too.
While social media platforms face the heat for not doing near enough to address such pressing matters, especially in times of emergencies, this seems to be a step in the right direction. But is it too little and too late? And can they be taken at the face value of their words to quell concerns about data privacy? Let us know in the comments section below!