Instagram to block anti-vaccine hashtags | #140309

A measles vaccination being administered

A measles vaccination being administered

Instagram already blocks hashtags which clearly link to false information, but the Facebook-owned company has now said it will address content that seems innocent on the surface. Clicking a banned hashtag simply won't let the users anywhere and it won't even come up if it's being searched for on goal.

For example, a hashtag like #vaccines1234 does not contain anything alarming in its wording, but if it is found to be used in a number of posts to promote verifiably false vaccine misinformation it will be added to the block list.

Known vaccine misinformation refers to vaccine hoaxes that have been identified by groups including the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, on Wednesday, CNN published a story about how Instagram was still circulating content over the hashtag page #vaccineskill and through user accounts such as "Christians Against Vaccines". The top posts surfaced by Instagram's algorithms for the neutral hashtag #Vaccines were also polluted by anti-vaccine misinformation.

Users will still be allowed to express anti-vaccination views on the platform.

If a user types a blocked hashtag into search, such as #vaccinescauseautism, Instagram won't show them that exact hashtag, though other variants may still appear.

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

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. So hashtags that include posts with confirmed false information won't display any search results.

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

It also said it would prevent them from advertising and using ad targeting terms like 'vaccine controversy'.

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