Instagram is attempting to crack down on misinformation about vaccines

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2202447-instagram-is-attempting-to-crack-down-on-misinformation-about-vaccines/

The instagram app

Instagram wants to reduce misinformation

Yui Mok/PA Wire

Instagram is cracking down on misinformation about vaccinations by blocking hashtags that include verifiably false information about the subject.

The Facebook-owned platform already blocks obvious hashtag terms used to spread false information, such as #vaccinescauseautism, #vaccinescauseaids and #vaccinesarepoison, but its policy is now being extended to address vaccine hashtags that seem innocent on the surface.

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 posts about vaccines it will be added to the block list.

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When a hashtag is blocked, users are presented with no results when searching for it.

Instagram’s approach will only targets misinformation about vaccines and not anti-vax opinions, which it says is not something it would take action on.

Instagram did not specify a limit on the number of times a hashtag is abused before it will be blocked. It says it will block hashtags when the content surfaced on the hashtag page contains a “certain amount” of verifiably false vaccine misinformation.

The move comes after Facebook said it was “exploring additional measures” to address anti-vaccination posts in February.

Simon Stevens at NHS England has previously said that vaccine refusal is a growing public health timebomb.

Vaccination rates have dropped in recent years, with an estimated 169 million children around the world missing out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, according to recent numbers from charity Unicef.

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