Starting today, Instagram is hiding search results from hashtags that spread disinformation about vaccination.
If Instagram will pick up that random hashtags like #vaccines123 end up being commonly used to spread anti-vaccination information, it will block them as well. 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 objective.
Asked by CNN Business why #VaccinesHarm is not blocked under its new policies, an Instagram spokesperson said the company is now reviewing hashtags and will block ones that feature a certain amount of vaccine misinformation.
Instagram declined to say what threshold a hashtag needs to reach before it is a candidate for removal, as it doesn't want users to be able to game the system. Instagram defines "known vaccine misinformation" as information that has been verified false by organizations such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control. The top posts surfaced by Instagram's algorithms for the neutral hashtag #Vaccines were also polluted by anti-vaccine misinformation.
It takes mere moments to find thousands of Instagram posts from anti-vaxxers, but users spouting straight up bullshit about vaccinations on the photo-sharing platform are going to have a trickier time circulating their misinformation.
Human moderators across Instagram's safety and security team are monitoring vaccination hashtags and reviewing whether their content is verifiably false before blocking them from the app, the firm said.
The feature is still in development and the company didn't share a launch date.
The spokesperson also said the process for combating vaccine misinformation is ongoing and that Instagram is considering additional ways it can address the issue on the platform. Since February YouTube has demonetised anti-vax videos while Facebook said it would ban anti-vax groups and pages from advertising.