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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 8:38 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 601937

Reported Deaths: 9593
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion831111322
Lake44972678
Allen32498545
Hamilton29039315
St. Joseph27133380
Elkhart24291343
Vanderburgh19160246
Tippecanoe17799130
Johnson14871292
Porter14631167
Hendricks14188247
Madison10851219
Vigo10636178
Clark10520137
Monroe9299110
Delaware9055134
LaPorte8972160
Howard8134142
Kosciusko800382
Warrick665197
Hancock6575103
Bartholomew637999
Floyd6322109
Wayne6076161
Grant5937113
Dubois552578
Boone544967
Morgan530594
Henry503464
Marshall499884
Cass478663
Dearborn470745
Noble468357
Jackson420747
Shelby410781
Lawrence387478
Clinton370642
Gibson365559
DeKalb344264
Montgomery340754
Harrison340544
Knox333139
Miami317344
Steuben311545
Whitley301725
Wabash299747
Adams299035
Ripley296545
Putnam292049
Huntington288659
Jasper287634
White270340
Daviess266073
Jefferson257938
Fayette245148
Decatur244883
Greene238162
Posey236927
Wells233350
LaGrange226361
Scott221838
Clay220932
Randolph212148
Jennings195836
Sullivan190833
Spencer188019
Fountain182127
Washington182022
Starke174443
Jay166322
Owen162837
Fulton162330
Orange156333
Carroll155415
Rush153318
Perry151227
Vermillion147334
Franklin146933
Tipton130932
Parke13018
Pike115626
Blackford110522
Pulaski96137
Newton90521
Brown86833
Benton85910
Crawford7839
Martin72313
Warren6757
Switzerland6455
Union6227
Ohio4787
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 849704

Reported Deaths: 10518
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100046706
Cuyahoga845231068
Hamilton63092447
Montgomery42660405
Summit34405754
Lucas31041611
Butler30546229
Stark25443429
Warren19436140
Lorain18767223
Mahoning17163337
Lake15882153
Clermont15697110
Delaware1422678
Licking13067137
Trumbull12680313
Fairfield1262180
Greene11915136
Medina11439167
Clark10802265
Wood10230158
Allen9774126
Portage9163107
Miami907373
Richland9035117
Marion7420113
Tuscarawas7280179
Columbiana7263124
Pickaway719550
Wayne6954169
Muskingum690741
Erie6090127
Hancock547590
Ross543487
Scioto533664
Geauga501155
Darke465591
Ashtabula449373
Lawrence447053
Union444928
Sandusky433062
Mercer432088
Huron423541
Seneca423465
Auglaize419662
Shelby419421
Jefferson415469
Belmont411240
Washington383340
Athens37379
Putnam372674
Madison349929
Knox347922
Ashland342538
Fulton335243
Defiance327782
Crawford319472
Preble318437
Brown307121
Logan304132
Ottawa289243
Clinton286643
Williams275866
Highland271818
Jackson261345
Guernsey249825
Champaign249328
Fayette234429
Morrow23014
Perry228318
Holmes222864
Henry216849
Hardin210133
Coshocton203521
Van Wert200545
Gallia194726
Wyandot193851
Pike172417
Adams172015
Hocking169824
Carroll153216
Paulding143221
Noble119940
Meigs106823
Monroe100331
Harrison87821
Morgan82229
Vinton68913
Unassigned00
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