Instagram To Stop Vaccine Hoaxes, But Not Necessarily Anti-Vaxxers

Instagram is the latest internet platform to crack down on bad health information

Once a hashtag has been blocked, if a user attempts to search that term, it will no longer return any results when users click on it.

Instagram did not specify a limit on the number of times a hashtag is being abused before blocking it, stating that it will block hashtags whereby the content surfaced on the hashtag page contains a "certain amount" of verifiably false vaccine misinformation.

Instagram has chose to crack down on anti-vaccine conspiracy theories by blocking hashtags that surface false information about vaccines.

"If the hashtag was #vaccines1234, if it contained a high proportion of known vaccine misinformation, we would block that hashtag entirely", Karina Newton, Instagram's global head of public policy, said at a May 9 press event in San Francisco, Calif., Verge reports.

Announcing the change, Instagram will prevent pre-identified hashtags from appearing in search results and hashtag pages.

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Instagram declined to say what threshold a hashtag needs to reach before it is a candidate for removal, as it doesn't want users to be able to game the system.

Instagram also plans to release a pop-up message that users will see when searching for vaccine information, which will connect them to high-quality information on the topic.

Even neutral or pro-vaccine hashtags such as #vaccines or #vaccineswork are co-opted by anti-vaxxers to spread false claims. "It's very unfortunate that there would be such a hashtag because it's going to scare people", Daniel Salmon, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety, told CNN Business Wednesday.

Instagram said it will continue to block hashtags with a high percentage of anti-vaccination misinformation as it finds them.

Instagram is cracking down on misinformation about vaccinations being spread by blocking hashtags on its app that draw out "verifiably false" posts about the controversial subject.


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