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: 954230

Reported Deaths: 15474
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1298902003
Lake638781106
Allen54326765
Hamilton44326448
St. Joseph42368592
Elkhart33998491
Vanderburgh30740451
Tippecanoe27012251
Johnson23862420
Hendricks22576343
Porter21943348
Clark17657231
Madison17628387
Vigo16465285
Monroe14637193
LaPorte14493241
Delaware14291225
Howard14058274
Kosciusko11562137
Hancock11022168
Warrick10793179
Bartholomew10730171
Floyd10584209
Wayne10169230
Grant9271206
Morgan9000160
Boone8507112
Dubois7823124
Dearborn776391
Henry7749134
Noble7510101
Marshall7452129
Cass7244118
Lawrence7080154
Shelby6701111
Jackson666386
Gibson6233107
Harrison613287
Huntington608397
Montgomery5903106
DeKalb587591
Knox5589105
Miami554889
Putnam547668
Clinton540566
Whitley534054
Steuben506570
Wabash492792
Jasper487763
Jefferson478992
Ripley463477
Adams448868
Daviess4267109
Scott413065
Clay398358
Greene396892
White396158
Wells393285
Decatur391297
Fayette383380
Posey364341
Jennings358857
Washington336847
LaGrange327375
Spencer323037
Randolph320290
Fountain320156
Sullivan311349
Owen289764
Starke287565
Fulton282356
Orange279259
Jay260038
Perry256353
Carroll247129
Franklin244938
Rush238930
Vermillion237751
Parke222421
Tipton214255
Pike214041
Blackford172934
Pulaski170351
Crawford148519
Newton147046
Benton144716
Brown136646
Martin130618
Switzerland127810
Warren116116
Union99511
Ohio80911
Unassigned0494

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1393696

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1544531574
Cuyahoga1364632341
Hamilton991581326
Montgomery682681161
Summit571661051
Lucas51927869
Butler48223663
Stark42502983
Lorain32263539
Warren30544338
Mahoning27651643
Clermont26123297
Lake24920422
Delaware22656147
Licking20886246
Fairfield20833223
Greene20708275
Trumbull20465516
Medina20236290
Clark18277332
Richland16793236
Portage16501231
Wood16002209
Allen14459261
Miami14091261
Muskingum13019155
Wayne12306244
Columbiana12094242
Tuscarawas11297271
Marion10960150
Pickaway10675129
Scioto10618127
Erie9905171
Ross9685177
Lawrence9005125
Hancock8667143
Ashtabula8533187
Belmont8301188
Geauga8294156
Jefferson7785175
Huron7598131
Union745351
Washington7451126
Athens712965
Sandusky7003135
Darke6906137
Knox6876122
Seneca6551137
Ashland6095115
Auglaize598788
Shelby5867104
Brown579072
Mercer566790
Crawford5603117
Defiance5587101
Madison552571
Highland551782
Fulton544583
Clinton537681
Logan521987
Preble5131111
Putnam4915107
Guernsey489464
Williams471582
Perry466254
Champaign456664
Ottawa444684
Jackson438763
Pike402645
Morrow400551
Coshocton398069
Fayette385253
Adams373675
Hardin369470
Gallia357858
Henry332969
Holmes3328111
Van Wert323271
Hocking312570
Wyandot286858
Carroll268252
Paulding248843
Meigs225542
Monroe193449
Noble174942
Morgan171229
Harrison161941
Vinton143119
Unassigned05
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