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Instagram To Stop Vaccine Hoaxes, But Not Necessarily Anti-Vaxxers

Instagram Vaccines

Instagram plans on cracking down on more hashtags surfacing anti-vaccine information, but only up to a point.

On Thursday, the Facebook-owned service said it plans on blocking any hashtag page that contains high amounts of “verifiably false vaccine misinformation.” For instance, a seemingly benign hashtag like #vaccines1234 will result in a block if it becomes rife with vaccine hoaxes.

However, Instagram is going to refrain from cracking down on the anti-vaxxer movement itself. Users will still be able to express opinions against vaccines over the hashtag pages, as long as they’re free of “verifiably false vaccine misinformation,” such as conspiracy theories that global health organizations have thoroughly debunked.

In the event a hashtag page does contain a lower amount of health misinformation, Instagram said it’ll only show a limited number of posts from the page, but not block it completely.

Two months ago, the service was supposed to begin blocking and stopping recommendations of hashtag pages that contained misinformation about vaccinations as part of a Facebook-led push to crack down on the content. As a result, Instagram has been banning hashtags including #vaccinecauseaids and #vaccinesarepoison.

However, on Wednesday, CNN published a story about how Instagram was still circulating content over the hashtag page #vaccineskill and through user accounts such as “Christians Against Vaccines.”

Instagram has now begun blocking the #vaccineskill hashtag page, but you can still find many more anti-vaccination pages over the platform, such as #vaccinesdontwork and #vaccineinjury. Users have also created new hashtag pages such as #vaccineskillbro and #vaccinesarepoisoned to mimic the ones Instagram previously took down.

Instagram said it’ll take time for the platform to address the controversial content. But in addition to the hashtag blocking, Instagram is also working on pop-ups that’ll warn people when searching for vaccine-related misinformation.

The crack down occurs as the US is reporting a record number of measles cases across the country with many critics blaming the outbreak on the anti-vaxxer movement. However, Facebook’s attempts to rein in the vaccine misinformation have also evoked complaints of online censorship.

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