You now need a Facebook account to sign up to Messenger 
Facebook has confirmed that it has changed the sign up process for new users wanting to join its Messenger service, removing the option to access the messaging platform without a Facebook account. Previously, new users were able to join Facebook's Messenger or Messenger Lite apps with their phone number in lieu of an account. Facebook says that the move aims to simplify the sign-up process, as the majority of Messenger users have a Facebook account before joining. However the platform said that if you already use Messenger without a Facebook account, there's "no need to do anything".

Instagram steps up its fight against misinformation 
Instagram has announced that it will be extending its fact-checking trial in the US and, from May, will begin working with 45 third-party organisations to assess the truthfulness of content on its platform. Any content that is deemed misleading or false will be hidden from the Explore and hashtag pages and covered with a warning until users tap to see the post. The social network will also be using image matching technology to find additional copies of false content across both Facebook and Instagram and apply the same label.

Instagram adds age restriction options for business accounts 
Following Instagram's recent move to age-gate the site for new users, the platform has rolled out a new option that enables brands and creators to set age restrictions for people wishing to follow their account. As part of the new update, business profiles will also be able to set different age restrictions for different countries.

Instagram uses AI to detect potentially offensive captions
Building on a similar feature which was launched for comments in July 2019, Instagram has announced that it will now be using AI to detect post captions that might be considered offensive. Once spotted, users will be given the opportunity to edit the caption before posting it. The new feature was rolled out to select countries last month, with plans to expand it globally over the coming months.

Instagram tests its own Brand Collabs Manager in the US
Instagram has begun testing Facebook's Brand Collabs Manager, a tool which was first introduced in June 2018 to help match up advertisers and creators for branded content partnerships, with roughly 40 creators in the US. The test group will now be sharing their content, details about their audiences, and first-party insights with potentially relevant partners.

Along with the new Collabs tool, Instagram has also noted that it plans to update its branded content policies about promoting restricted goods and services - such as alcohol, tobacco, weapons and health supplements - to bring them in line with its overall ad policies.

Snapchat plans to launch Bitmoji TV, a personalised cartoon series
One of Snapchat's most popular features, Bitmojis, will be making an even bigger moving into the spotlight this year in the form of a full-motion cartoon series, called Bitmoji TV. Due for global release in February, Bitmoji TV will feature your personalised Bitmoji, and those of your friends, as they appear in regularly scheduled adventures, ranging from playing the crew of spaceships to being secret agents, and more. While the site gives little away, interested users can subscribe to Bitmoji TV to ensure that it shows up on their Discover page and receive notifications about new content.

Snapchat debuts Leaderboard Games for Snap Games
Snapchat has added Leaderboard Games, a series easy-to-play games featuring Bitmoji avatars, to Snap Games which will enable friends to compete against each other to see who can achieve the highest scores. Along with the new games, a Score Streaming feature will allow users to compete against friends in real-time when  playing simultaneously in the same chat. When friends are playing together, they also have the option to chat via text or voice during the games.

Snapchat rolls out Scan in the US with two brand partnerships
Last month, Snapchat launched its new Snapchat Scan feature to iOS users in the US, which allows Snapchatters to scan certain logos to unlock branded augmented reality Lenses. Kicking off the launch, users are currently able to scan the logo on a range of products from McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to access two unique sets of three AR Lenses. The Lenses are also available within the Lens Carousel.