Instagram is policing Photoshopped images to curb the spread of fake news

Instagram dark mode
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
Audio player loading…

If you're an Instagram user and have suddenly begun to find some images in the main feed are blurry, don't be alarmed – you aren't alone.

The image-sharing platform's fact-checkers have begun flagging digitally altered images as "false information", and this includes some Photoshopped images that were manipulated for artistic reasons.

This new development is part of parent company Facebook's efforts to combat fake news (opens in new tab). While Instagram doesn't clearly define what the platform considers "false information", a post must go through independent fact-checkers to pass muster. 

When a post is flagged, Instagram then makes it "harder to find by filtering it from Explore and Hashtags". However, an original post might be visible in a feed or a user's profile page, but when clicking on it to view on a full screen, users may see a warning as shown in the screenshot below.

(Image credit: Mixsociety_/Instagram)

The image in question is that of a man standing on rainbow-hued mountains, which is clearly not a real place and quite obvious to most viewers that the image has been altered for illustrative reasons.

San Francisco-based photographer Toby Harriman (opens in new tab) found that image from user MIX Society (opens in new tab) while scrolling through his Instagram feed and wondered whether the platform was taking its policing "a bit too far" on his Facebook page (opens in new tab).

Scrolling through the other posts on the MIX Society profile page shows a few other Photoshopped images as well, like the 'bear island' in the screenshoot below, although that wasn't flagged as "false information". There's also another image of an island made to resemble a cat's face, which is also clearly manipulated but passes muster.

(Image credit: Mixsociety_/Instagram)

There are plenty of other digitally altered images on the platform but this kind of policing is raising a debate over Instagram's inconsistency on flagging what is and isn't fake. It's also dredging up the old argument about manipulating images for artistic reasons and 'real photography'.

While some are worried it's "going to kill memes", as one Facebook user mentioned when responding to Harriman's post, it should be up to Instagram to clearly lay down guidelines as to what it (or the company's fact-checkers) considers false.

[Via PetaPixel (opens in new tab)]

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (yes, she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing cameras and lenses, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She also contributes to Digital Camera World and T3, and helps produce two of Future's photography print magazines in Australia.