Instagram To Block Anti-Vaccine Hashtags Amid Public Health Emergency

10 May 2019, 12:47

Instagram has already banned several hashtags which contain obvious false information about vaccines.
Instagram has already banned several hashtags which contain obvious false information about vaccines. Picture: PA

Instagram is set to start hiding hashtags which link to "verifiably false" posts containing "anti-vax" misinformation.

“If the hashtag was #vaccines1234, if it contained a high proportion of known vaccine misinformation, we would block that hashtag entirely,” said Karina Newton, Instagram’s spokesperson.

Instagram said “known vaccine misinformation” refers to misinformation that has been verified as false by the health organisations across the globe.

Social media companies have come under fire for not doing enough to stop "anti-vax" content.

In February the Royal Society for Public Health warned that social media was a “breeding ground for misleading information and negative messaging around vaccination.” 

The body called for an online crackdown on “fake news," about vaccines.

Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology (BSI), said the anti-vaxxing movement “definitely remains a concern”.

New York City declared a "public health emergency" in April after a measles outbreak hit almost 300 people. The city's mayor Bill de Blasio hit out at anti-vaxxers who he said were "part of an insidious, well-funded campaign to take advantage of parents who just want to take care of their kids. "

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.

When a hashtag is blocked, users are presented with no results when searching it on the social network.

There have been moves across social media to stop vaccine misinformation. Since February YouTube has demonetised anti-vax videos while Facebook said it would ban anti-vax groups and pages from advertising.

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