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Instagram will do more to stop the spread of anti-vaccination lies

I guess you could say the social site got its shots.

Anti-vax hashtags on instagram
Screenshot: Instagram

It’s been two months since Facebook pledged to do something about the rampant anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on its platforms, and now it seems Instagram is finally starting to do something about its share. On Thursday, Instagram said it will now start blocking hashtags that surface lies about vaccines.

This is similar to how Instagram is handling other undesirable types of content, by preventing posts containing those hashtags from showing in search results and hashtag pages. It doesn’t appear to be live yet, at least not for me. The screenshot above was taken today, with the search still being full of anti-vax misinformation, accounts, and memes.

Nothing is being done to limit uploads of that content, and the anti-vax movement will just change their hashtags to skate around the bans

The language used will likely evolve, as Instagram will only ban overt lies like “vaccines cause autism.” Propagandists will just reword that to platitudes about “vaccines make me feel bad.” Instagram also isn’t deleting profiles that share anti-vaccine content, although perhaps it should.

Asked by CNN Business why #VaccinesKill was acceptable when #VaccinesCauseAIDS was not, an Instagram spokesperson said there isn’t an officially debunked claim that vaccines kill.

This is only a half-measure, with Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, under ever-increasing pressure to do something about the anti-vaccination lies. With outbreaks of measles and other easily-vaccinated-against diseases on the rise, it’s clear to me that the spread of lies and misinformation on social media is becoming a public health issue. Will that spur agencies like the CDC or legislators, to pressure Facebook to ban anti-vaccine content completely?

Instagram is also planning to add an in-app popup that will appear when people search for vaccine-related content

Just like the GDPR cookie popup, I feel most people will just click on “ok” and continue to read the anti-vaccine lies. The company’s goal is to direct users to accurate information from sources like the World Health Organization, although how effective this would be is unclear.

What do you think? Glad to see Instagram addressing the issue or should the company do more? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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