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Instagram blocks '#VaccinesKill' hashtag after CNN Business report

Instagram said Thursday it will now block additional hashtags that surface...

Posted: May 10, 2019 7:38 AM

Instagram said Thursday it will now block additional hashtags that surface vaccine misinformation, but other hashtags and content promoted by anti-vaccination accounts are still thriving on the platform.

The change in Instagram's policies comes after a CNN Business report on Wednesday which revealed that, though Instagram had announced it was blocking hashtags like #VaccinescauseAIDS, the hashtag #VaccinesKill was still up on the app and appeared as a top result in a search for "vaccines" after anti-vax accounts. The majority of the top posts under the hashtag were misinformation.

#VaccinesKill is now a blocked hashtag. If a hashtag is blocked on Instagram, it will no longer populate with any results when users click on it. Users clicking on #VaccinesKill are greeted by a note that says, "Posts for #vaccineskill have been limited because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram's community guidelines."

Despite the new policy, a new review by CNN Business on Thursday found that hashtags such as #VaccinesHarm are still alive and well on the platform and showing a significant amount of anti-vax content and vaccine misinformation in their top results. The top posts surfaced by Instagram's algorithms for the neutral hashtag #Vaccines were also polluted by anti-vaccine misinformation.

Asked by CNN Business why #VaccinesHarm is not blocked under its new policies, an Instagram spokesperson said the company is currently reviewing hashtags and will block ones that feature a certain amount of vaccine misinformation.

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. It is also considering adding a pop-up message with factual information about vaccines to some hashtags, the spokesperson said.

Instagram also said Thursday that now when it blocks a hashtag with a certain term, it will also block that term from being searched entirely. For example, Instagram said, if a user were to type "vaccinescauseautism" into Instagram's search, no results would appear because #VaccinesCauseAutism is a blocked hashtag. When CNN Business performed that search on several phones, however, results did appear, including hashtags like #vaccinescauseautismreadthestudies.

Hashtags that have a smaller percentage of health-related misinformation will only show a limited number of posts, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson would not elaborate on how much misinformation has to appear under a given hashtag for it to be banned, saying the company didn't want users to be able to game the system.

"Vaccines are extremely safe. Serious adverse reactions are very, very rare. It's very unfortunate that there would be such a hashtag because it's going to scare people," Daniel Salmon, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety, told CNN Business Wednesday. "If you scare people, less people will get vaccinated and you'll have outbreaks of things like measles which can kill children."

Scientists have repeatedly and consistently debunked the most common anti-vax myth, the idea that there is a connection between vaccinations and the development of autism in children. Reputable organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that vaccination for children is crucial to public health.

Experts are concerned that anti-vax content and misinformation spreading online can discourage people from getting vaccinated or leave them vulnerable to contracting potentially deadly diseases such as measles. The number of measles cases reported this year in the United States had climbed to 764 as of Monday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, first said two months ago it was working to address vaccine misinformation on its platforms, including not showing or recommending misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram's Explore page or hashtag pages.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30674

Reported Deaths: 1107
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds248039
DeSoto157216
Madison129634
Jones112049
Neshoba98571
Rankin91612
Lauderdale90879
Harrison88610
Forrest86042
Scott77015
Jackson61616
Copiah60216
Washington5789
Leake57519
Holmes55141
Lee54718
Wayne54213
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51118
Yazoo5056
Leflore48651
Lowndes48312
Grenada4795
Lamar4567
Lincoln45434
Pike43112
Monroe39930
Lafayette3894
Sunflower3737
Attala35923
Covington3475
Panola3456
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Adams31018
Simpson3103
Pontotoc2836
Tate27810
Chickasaw27618
Marion27511
Claiborne27010
Jasper2616
Noxubee2618
Winston2596
Pearl River25432
Clay24910
Marshall2263
Smith22011
Union2079
Clarke20624
Walthall2004
Coahoma1996
Kemper17814
Lawrence1741
Yalobusha1717
Carroll16411
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1312
Tippah13011
Calhoun1294
Hancock12613
Webster12510
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite892
George863
Tishomingo781
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn682
Perry664
Stone641
Franklin452
Sharkey350
Benton340
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4944152
Montgomery4021103
Mobile4005134
Tuscaloosa222642
Marshall170210
Lee135937
Madison13597
Shelby122723
Morgan10715
Walker91424
Elmore90314
Franklin88914
Dallas8799
Baldwin8469
Etowah72713
DeKalb7075
Butler62428
Chambers62427
Tallapoosa58869
Autauga58312
Russell5450
Unassigned50323
Lauderdale4896
Limestone4810
Houston4794
Lowndes46721
Cullman4394
Pike4205
Colbert3916
Coffee3732
Bullock36810
St. Clair3662
Covington3547
Barbour3472
Escambia3376
Calhoun3325
Hale31021
Talladega3037
Marengo30211
Wilcox2908
Sumter28412
Dale2820
Clarke2736
Jackson2682
Winston2543
Chilton2392
Monroe2342
Blount2301
Pickens2276
Marion21913
Conecuh2047
Randolph2009
Choctaw19512
Bibb1871
Macon1859
Greene1838
Perry1701
Henry1323
Crenshaw1253
Lawrence1070
Washington1057
Cherokee857
Geneva790
Lamar751
Fayette681
Clay642
Coosa581
Cleburne361
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