Instagram blocks vaccine hoax hashtags

Maricruz Casares
May 13, 2019

"If the hashtag was #vaccines1234, if it contained a high proportion of known vaccine misinformation, we would block that hashtag entirely", said Karina Newton, Instagram's global head of public policy, the Verge reported.

Instagram said Thursday it will now block additional hashtags that surface vaccine misinformation, but other hashtags and content promoted by anti-vaccination accounts are still thriving on the platform.

An Instagram spokesperson said in an email sent to Gizmodo that if someone tries to click on a hashtag that has been blocked, there will be no search results, and the hashtag will also be unsearchable in the search bar.

Asked by CNN Business why #VaccinesHarm is not blocked under its new policies, an Instagram spokesperson said the company is now reviewing hashtags and will block ones that feature a certain amount of vaccine misinformation.

Instagram has now begun blocking the #vaccineskill hashtag page, but you can still find many more anti-vaccination pages over the platform, such as #vaccinesdontwork and #vaccineinjury.

Erased messages are analyzed on Instagram to see which hashtags they are provided with.

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As per the report, Instagram is also planning an in-app pop-up that will appear when people search for vaccine-related content.

The feature is still in development and the company didn't share a launch date.

However, Instagram's approach continues to only targets misinformation about vaccines and not anti-vax opinions, which it says is not something it would take action on.

Hashtags including #vaccinetruth, #vaccineskillandmaim and #vaccinescauseautismreadthestudies showed numerous posts containing false information.

The move comes as Instagram parent Facebook has also taken measures to stop anti-vaccination misinformation from spreading on its platform.

Last month, Facebook said it would reduce the rank of groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccines in News Feed and Search.

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