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Instagram Adds New Prompts to Help Slow Resurgences of COVID-19

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As we approach the new year, and news of approved vaccines is starting to filter through, it feels like we’re reaching the next stage, that the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is now within view.

But that doesn’t, unfortunately, mean that we’re any safer from the virus – and right now, many regions are seeing resurgences in COVID-19 cases, sparking new lockdowns and other mitigation efforts to keep the pandemic at bay.

The message right now is not to let up, even with the end seemingly in sight.

In line with this, Instagram has today announced that it’s adding some new prompts to ensure that people remain aware, and vigilant, in their COVID-19 avoidance efforts.

Instagram COVID-19 prompts

As explained by Instagram:

First, in places where cases are surging, people will see a prompt at the top of their Feed, connecting them to health authorities such as the CDC, WHO or their local counterparts. Second, in addition to removing widely debunked claims about the COVID-19 vaccines, when people search for terms related to vaccines or COVID-19, we’ll direct them to information from credible health authorities.”

The new measures add to the various COVID-19 awareness tools that Instagram, and Facebook more broadly, have rolled out during the year. Earlier in the month, Facebook announced that it will be increasing its efforts to detect and remove COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, in order to ensure optimal take-up of the treatment, and get regions back to normal as quickly as possible.

As noted, it does feel like we’re close to turning a corner, and as we say goodbye to 2020, it can also feel like we’re saying goodbye to the pandemic. But we’re not there yet, and as such, it remains critical that we stick with the current health advice and do whatever we all can to stop the spread.

These prompts will help to further underline that ongoing push.

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UK teen died after ‘negative effects of online content’: coroner

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Molly Russell was exposed to online material 'that may have influenced her in a negative way'

Molly Russell was exposed to online material ‘that may have influenced her in a negative way’ – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Philip FONG

A 14-year-old British girl died from an act of self harm while suffering from the “negative effects of online content”, a coroner said Friday in a case that shone a spotlight on social media companies.

Molly Russell was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness,” Andrew Walker ruled at North London Coroner’s Court.

The teenager “died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression”, he said, but added it would not be “safe” to conclude it was suicide.

Some of the content she viewed was “particularly graphic” and “normalised her condition,” said Walker.

Russell, from Harrow in northwest London, died in November 2017, leading her family to set up a campaign highlighting the dangers of social media.

“There are too many others similarly affected right now,” her father Ian Russell said after the ruling.

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“At this point, I just want to say however dark it seems, there is always hope.

“I hope that this will be an important step in bringing about much needed change,” he added.

The week-long hearing became heated when the family’s lawyer, Oliver Sanders, took an Instagram executive to task.

A visibly angry Sanders asked Elizabeth Lagone, the head of health and wellbeing at Meta, Instagram’s parent company, why the platform allowed children to use it when it was “allowing people to put potentially harmful content on it”.

“You are not a parent, you are just a business in America. You have no right to do that. The children who are opening these accounts don’t have the capacity to consent to this,” he said.

Lagone apologised after being shown footage, viewed by Russell, that “violated our policies”.

Of the 16,300 posts Russell saved, shared or liked on Instagram in the six-month period before her death, 2,100 related to depression, self-harm or suicide, the inquest heard.

Children’s charity NSPCC said the ruling “must be a turning point”.

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“Tech companies must be held accountable when they don’t make children’s safety a priority,” tweeted the charity.

“This must be a turning point,” it added, stressing that any delay to a government bill dealing with online safety “would be inconceivable to parents”.

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