Instagram Will Start Blocking ‘Verifiably False’ Information About Vaccinations

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

Facebook, which owns Instagram, first said two months ago it was working to address vaccine misinformation on its platforms, including not showing or recommending misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram's Explore page or hashtag pages.

The company will now begin to block hashtags that show consistently false information about vaccines, such as #vaccinescauseautism, #vaccinescauseaids and #vaccinesarepoison.

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.

The crackdown will effect hashtags that contain a high amount of known vaccine misinformation, Instagram said. 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. It is also considering adding a pop-up message with factual information about vaccines to some hashtags, the spokesperson said.

Human moderators across Instagram's safety and security team are monitoring vaccination hashtags and reviewing whether their content is verifiably false before blocking them from the app, the firm said.

Instagram did not disclose the specific percentage of misinformation that hashtags must present in order to be blocked because the social network does not want to encourage users to "try to game the system", according to the report.

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.

Even neutral or pro-vaccine hashtags such as #vaccines or #vaccineswork are co-opted by anti-vaxxers to spread false claims.

The move comes after Facebook said it was "exploring additional measures" to address anti-vaccination posts in February, following concerns raised about the controversial subject appearing in groups and pages across Facebook.

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