Instagram is taking some strict measures to free the platform from bots and other accounts that are manipulating its services. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app will ask users that show "potential inauthentic behavior" to verify their identities.
"Starting today, we will begin asking people to confirm who’s behind an account when we see a pattern of potential inauthentic behavior," the company announced in an official blog post on Thursday.
Instagram will look at a number of signals to determine if they need to ask an account holder to prove their identity. Those signals include "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or signs of automation such as bot accounts. The company may also ask for identity proof if the majority of someone's followers are in a different country to their location.
If an account shows any such signs, the account holder will need to verify their identity by submitting a government ID. The company has provided a list of IDs it accepts in the help section of the platform. It promises to store the IDs securely and delete them within 30 days after the completion of the review process. Instagram also promises to not share details of such users in their accounts.
Once the identity is verified, the accounts will function as usual unless they need to investigate further. However, if a user fails to do so, Instagram may reduce the distribution of their posts on the feed. The company may also disable the account altogether.
Instagram says this will enable the company to "better understand when accounts are attempting to mislead their followers, hold them accountable," and keep the Instagram community safe. It believes these new rules will affect only a small number of its users. Most people will not be affected.
After Facebook, Instagram starts asking users to verify their identities
The newest change in Instagram's policy comes just ahead of the 2020 election. The company has faced scrutiny in the past for not doing enough to prevent misinformation on its platform. According to Endgadget, a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian election interference in 2016 found Instagram to be "the most effective tool used by the IRA to conduct its information operations campaign". IRA (Internet Research Agency) is a Russian company that engages in online influence operations.
Instagram is now stepping up its efforts in order to avoid a similar fate this year. Its parent company Facebook also has a similar policy in place. The social media giant requires people who run popular pages on its platform to verify their identities.