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Instagram to block hashtags from search that spread wrong information about vaccines


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

Announcing the change, Instagram will prevent pre-identified hashtags from appearing in search results and hashtag pages. This approach isn’t new though. Instagram has previously done this to address hashtags associated with self-harm and selling drugs.

But Instagram isn’t doing away with the anti-vaccination sentiment on its platform completely. As per a report by The Verge, starting today, the platform will make a distinction between specific, “scientifically false” information, which will be blocked, and statements that are vaguer.

Instagram is borrowing cues from Facebook’s approach to tackle vaccine misinformation.

But how will Instagram make this distinction?

Well, Instagram is taking a similar approach to how Facebook addressed anti-vaccination conspiracy theories on its platform. The company is relying on information from the World Health Organisation and other reliable organisations that have debunked “scientifically false” information about vaccines in the past.

Critics may argue that this move by Instagram doesn’t really do enough. The pages that were created to plant fear in parents about vaccinations, for example, will still be around, and their followers will still be able to see their posts.

But by removing the worst offenders from search results, Instagram is at least tackling one of the most obvious problems of how easy it is to find blatant anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and propaganda on Instagram.

As per the report, Instagram is also planning an in-app pop-up that will appear when people search for vaccine-related content. It’s not yet clear exactly what this will look like, but Instagram says the goal is to direct people to accurate information on the topic from reputable sources.

The changes also come as Facebook faces public pressure to do more to prevent anti-vaccination conspiracy theories and propaganda from spreading.

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