On Thursday, 9th May 2019, Instagram announced that it will block hashtags that give false information about vaccines. It is currently going against people spreading anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
Instagram, in a new change that will take effect immediately, will prevent identified anti-vaccine hashtags from appearing in search results and hashtag pages. The company previously did this to tackle hashtags associated with self-harm and drugs.
The Facebook-owned company will use machine learning to make distinctions between specific scientifically false information and statements that are not particularly specific. They will, therefore, not be blocking out anti-vaccination sentiments entirely. The will, however, block false information.
Instagram will also rely on information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other certified organisations that debunk scientifically false, anti-vaccine information.
Meanwhile, a lot of people are still not convinced about the effectiveness of this move. They believe that the accounts created to sow fear into parents about vaccinations will still exist. Also, the people already following them will still see their posts.
The problem of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and propaganda was so deep that, at some point, nearly all the top results for “vaccine” were pages spreading false information. This new move by Instagram will be able to significantly curb.
Instagram says it will work on helping to redirect people to accurate information about vaccines from reputable sources. This will be in the form of an in-app pop-up that will appear when people search for vaccine-related content.
This comes amid public pressures on Facebook to do more to prevent anti-vaccination propaganda and conspiracy theories from spreading. A recent measles outbreak in New York City has drawn new attention to the impact of anti-vaccine misinformation.