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Instagram's decision to hide photoshopped images is a disadvantage for art



In a controversial turning point, Instagram has started to hide photoshopping images on its platform – also for creative purposes.

San Francisco-based photographer Toby Harriman was scrolling through his Instagram feed when he suddenly discovered a post labeled "Wrong Information," writes PetaPixel. It was a first for him, so he clicked through the warning pop-up just to find out that it was just a photo of a man standing on a rainbow-colored hill.

"Independent fact checkers say this is wrong." The message warned. "The main claims in this information are factually inaccurate," it continues, referring to a report from a website called the "News Mobile Fact Check Bureau," where you can see the raw original image.

You read that right: one person had checked the picture (which is clearly decorated for artistic purposes) and came to the conclusion that this particular work of art was "wrong".

This latest increase in censorship is the result of Facebook continuing efforts to counter the spread of misinformation by authorized third-party fact-checkers. Unfortunately, the move has claimed an innocent victim: digital art.

"Interesting to see and curious to see if it's a bit too far," thought Harriman in a Facebook post. “As much as I love to better link real vs photoshop together. I also have great respect for digital art and don't want to have to click through obstacles to see it.

An Instagram spokesman told TNW that the company is using image adjustment technologies to find more instances of the same image as a measure to reduce the spread of misinformation. Technology appears to have identified the above picture as potential misinformation. The post was then assessed by an assessor who concluded that it was indeed misleading.

The spokesman also told me that Instagram believes that it is the responsibility of the platform to provide users with more context and to inform everyone that part of the content is "exposed".

But can art be exposed? And if so, does it have to be?

There are artists whose entire career revolves around image manipulation.

“Photoshop provocateur” Vemix notoriously placed manipulations at the center of his artistic work. As far as I know, Kurt Cobain has never had much to do with Eazy-E, but celebrities are the most unlikely unions in the world of Vemix.

Art does not have to remain "true" to the real world. It is often about creating experiences that betray our reality.

A typical example: Asger Carlsen. The Danish photographer has invented a whole world in which everyday scenes suddenly become representations of a surreal alternative reality.

Instagram's new measures to verify facts, however, expose such images to extinction.

Part of me understands why Facebook considers this step necessary.

The Zuckerberg empire has come under fire because of its role in spreading fake news, particularly during the 2016 US presidential election. He was also repeatedly asked about his approach to dealing with the impending “crisis” of deepfakes.

The decision to hide photoshop material – even if the purpose is clearly artistic – seems to me as an attempt to be a step ahead of this threat.

To be honest, I still come across a photoshopped post that has been flagged for misinformation, even though I follow tons of accounts that do creative image manipulation. Obviously, the platform is still struggling with enforcement, and it may still find out where photoshopptic content fits the taxonomy of banned images.

Anyway, I hope Facebook will go back to the drawing board and reconsider the current moderation tactics. Because his recent quest for truth is no help in fighting misinformation – it's a disadvantage for art.


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