At first reading, Instagram’s decision to slap a “false information” label on Jelena Djokovic’s post sharing a 5G coronavirus conspiracy video seems eminently sensible and responsible. After all, the news media is awash with stories of people attacking 5G masts and in some instances even threatening engineers in the belief that there’s some connection between the new communications system and the spread of the coronavirus.
At present there is no credible reason to think that any causal connection exists between a high-frequency communications system and a novel virus variant that attacks the respiratory systems of its victims. I for one am not expecting any such information to emerge any time soon.
Be that as it may, Instagram have made a big mistake in this instance and it’s a decision they will one day come to regret. The social media giants have been under increasing scrutiny over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to their arbitrary and politically motivated decisions to suppress some users while allowing others to continue using their platforms. Facebook has already tied itself in knots trying to explain its decision to remove completely legal posts by some users and not others; and the US Senate is starting to take the matter of online censorship much more seriously.
By deciding to effectively pass a value judgement on Jelena Djokovic’s personal opinion, Instagram has followed Facebook’s lead and started to assume the role of an editor as opposed to that of a neutral platform.