Today, Instagram will start rolling out some new tools designed to help weed out fake accounts and better inform users. Popular accounts will soon have the option for other users to see more detailed information about them, and everyone’s going to be scrambling to get the coveted tick of authenticity.
Whenever Facebook announces big actions it’s taken against bad actors or fraudulent accounts, there are always a few Instagram accounts tucked into the report. Facebook’s core product always makes up the bulk of account and page removals, but the purveyors of disinformation and false news still make use of the company’s less tainted service. The changes Facebook’s implementing today are designed to make it easier to flag those sinister accounts on Instagram and also add a little extra security for individuals.
The change you’re most likely to see immediately is perhaps more blue verified badges on accounts that reach large audiences. Instagram has verified accounts before, but it has never offered a clear, Twitter-style way for users to apply for the coveted badge (although Twitter is reevaluating its verification process). If you have a popular account, you’ll have to apply for the badge and Instagram isn’t publicly saying what qualifies as a popular account. In a press release sent to Gizmodo, the social network explained the steps to apply for verification as follows:
To access the verification request form, go to your profile, tap the menu icon, select “Settings” at the bottom and then choose “Request Verification.” You will need to provide your account username, your full name and a copy of your legal or business identification. This information will not be shared publicly.
Menus for verification application, account info, and two-factor authentication via an app (Image: Instagram)
Simply applying for verification doesn’t guarantee you’ll be approved. Instagram did not share what its tick mark will look like but it’ll likely be similar to the verified badge that Facebook uses for pages. But Instagram is much more like Twitter than Facebook when it comes to ego and social clout, so I’d expect people will look at the badge as a status symbol. Even though Twitter has basically admitted that verification is meaningless and it tends to attract more trolls, people still want it. So now, you’ll get an extra little pinch of FOMO when you see that influencer’s incredible tropical vacation and that elusive verified status.
The most significant change for informing users and identifying suspicious ‘grams is the addition of an “Account Info” option on popular accounts. In addition to the basic info that all users display on their accounts, over the coming weeks this new feature will offer the ability to view the date the account joined Instagram, the account’s country of origin, accounts that share the same followers, username changes over the last year, and perhaps most importantly, any ads the account is currently running. This should help users get an idea of whether an account is trying to influence local politics from the other side of the globe, or regularly misrepresenting itself.
Of all the new changes, the one you should probably pay the most attention to is the ability to use third-party authenticator apps for account security. Everyone should use two-factor authentication to protect their account from hackers. This means entering a password and receiving an additional code sent to an approved device. Previously, the code could be sent via text message, but unfortunately that isn’t the safest way to do it. You’ll now be able to use a third-party app like Google Authenticator to retrieve your code.
This will roll out to individuals over the next few weeks. To enable the feature, just go to Settings > Two-factor authentication. Click the third-party app slider and Instagram will automatically detect your authenticator app. If you don’t have one installed already, it’ll kick you to the app store where you can download the one you want and finish the setup process.
All around, these are obvious changes for Instagram to make and who knows how effective they’ll be at solving the company’s bigger issues, but the new security option is a must-do for every user.