Instagram blocks vaccine hoax hashtags
Instagram says it is going to block hashtags used to disperse”verifiably false” information about vaccinations.
The social network blocks hashtags which are themselves false claims, such as #vaccinescauseautism.
It says it will now block more overall hashtags which are being used to spread lies by so-called anti-vaxxers.
But, several anti-vaccine themes and reports spreading misinformation and hoaxes continue to be active on Instagram.
Hoaxes not hoaxers
Instagram told the BBC that it won’t take action against accounts or people that identify themselves as anti-vaxxers.
However, it is going to function to limit the spread of provably false claims because those have real harmful impacts on the general public.
It said it relied on international authorities like the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to spot hoaxes.
False claims such as #vaccinescauseaids and #vaccinesarepoison are already prohibited and return no research results on Instagram.
However, the platform will now start to block hashtags which are being used to disperse vaccine misinformation.
By way of instance, if the hashtag #vaccines1234 began to be used on false claims, it would also be blocked.
The topic will be tough to police. Anti-vaccination accounts won’t be prohibited, and new hashtags like #vaccineskillandmaim appear when the old ones are blocked.
Even neutral or pro-vaccine hashtags such as #vaccines or #vaccineswork are co-opted by anti-vaxxers to spread false claims.
Instagram is also considering displaying educational pop-up messages to people who hunt for vaccine-related hoaxes.
The platform already shows pop-up messages to individuals looking for browsing or drugs self-harm topics.
In February, YouTube ceased serving advertisements to plenty of popular channels that encourage anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
It took the step after protests from companies who discovered their commercials were running alongside the controversial videos.
The World Health Organization stated anti-vaccine perspectives were a”top 10 worldwide health hazard” in 2019.