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.

Confirmed Cases: 45952

Reported Deaths: 2650
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11387679
Lake4872240
Elkhart308543
Allen2677114
St. Joseph184965
Cass16369
Hamilton1484100
Hendricks136699
Johnson1235118
Porter68537
Madison64363
Tippecanoe6408
Clark62244
Bartholomew57844
Howard54356
LaPorte53925
Kosciusko4952
LaGrange4596
Jackson4553
Noble44728
Vanderburgh4306
Hancock42935
Delaware42648
Boone42242
Shelby41625
Marshall4123
Floyd36344
Morgan32031
Montgomery28720
Grant28526
Clinton2792
Dubois2606
White25810
Monroe25628
Decatur24632
Henry23515
Lawrence23124
Vigo2248
Harrison20822
Dearborn20422
Warrick20129
Greene18431
Miami1802
Jennings16911
Putnam1658
DeKalb1594
Scott1547
Daviess13916
Orange13323
Wayne1286
Franklin1248
Steuben1232
Perry1209
Ripley1127
Carroll1092
Jasper1092
Wabash1072
Fayette967
Newton9510
Whitley814
Randolph764
Starke733
Huntington702
Wells681
Jay670
Fulton661
Jefferson651
Washington641
Pulaski631
Knox620
Clay594
Rush573
Benton480
Adams451
Owen451
Gibson442
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey350
Spencer311
Tipton301
Crawford290
Fountain292
Switzerland250
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike80
Unassigned0194

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 52865

Reported Deaths: 2876
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin9338407
Cuyahoga7013366
Hamilton5224198
Marion273138
Lucas2628302
Pickaway217641
Summit1969206
Montgomery178426
Mahoning1752228
Butler144844
Columbiana120960
Stark1052112
Lorain96267
Trumbull86362
Warren75721
Clark7399
Belmont53421
Delaware51815
Tuscarawas51510
Fairfield50316
Medina49132
Lake44316
Miami44231
Ashtabula42144
Portage41858
Licking41611
Geauga39042
Wood38451
Clermont3566
Wayne35452
Richland3185
Allen29740
Mercer2728
Darke23625
Erie22922
Greene2229
Holmes2043
Madison1888
Huron1772
Crawford1357
Ottawa13023
Washington12720
Sandusky12213
Morrow1151
Putnam11516
Hardin11312
Ross1092
Auglaize993
Monroe8617
Coshocton811
Jefferson802
Union801
Hancock761
Hocking767
Muskingum731
Preble661
Lawrence650
Williams652
Clinton620
Guernsey603
Shelby594
Logan581
Wyandot584
Fulton570
Ashland551
Brown531
Carroll513
Defiance483
Fayette460
Highland431
Knox391
Champaign381
Athens371
Scioto360
Seneca332
Perry301
Henry290
Van Wert270
Paulding230
Vinton222
Adams211
Pike200
Jackson170
Gallia141
Harrison121
Meigs110
Noble110
Morgan90
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 86°
Angola
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Huntington
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Decatur
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 83°
Van Wert
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 83°
Hot Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events