The app was ‘perhaps the most effective platform’ for the Russian online propaganda campaign by the Internet Research Agency
This January, as Mark Zuckerberg was embarking on his quest to “fix” Facebook, one writer proposed a bold idea: make Facebook more like Instagram, “the Facebook-owned app that isn’t destabilizing society”. Instagram was no panacea, according to the New York Times tech columnist, but the downsides of the largely visual network – making “some of its users feel ugly and unpopular” – were insignificant compared to those of a highly politicized Facebook that could “undermine democracies and promote misinformation around the world”.
The idea that Instagram was a safe harbor for social media users in a sea of propaganda and political divisiveness caught on, both among users who didn’t realize the app was owned by scandal-ridden Facebook and with the tech press. An April Bloomberg Businessweek cover story framed Instagram as “Facebook’s best hope” and “Mark Zuckerberg’s way out of the latest data scandal”.