Instagram plans to block anti-vaccine hashtags

By Tauren Dyson

March 22 (UPI) -- Instagram has announced a plan to block anti-vaccine hashtags to combat medical misinformation spreading across the internet.

The company, which is owned by Facebook, commented on plans to block hashtags after media outlets inquired about anti-vaccine misinformation spreading on the platform.


The move, first reported by The Hill, follows a big push from social media companies to stop the spread of medical misinformation on their platforms.

"As part of our work to address health-related misinformation on Instagram, we're looking at ways to minimize recommendations of this content and accounts that post it across Instagram -- including in 'Suggested For You', Explore and hashtags," an Instagram spokesperson told UPI.

"Short term measures include blocking hashtags on Instagram which contain known health-related misinformation, including #vaccinescauseautism, #vaccinesarepoison, and #vaccinescausesids. We will continue to review hashtag and take action on those that violate our policies," the spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, Facebook, Instagram's parent company, announced it would stop promoting anti-vaccine posts on Instagram's search and "explore" options.

The Instagram search option, as The Atlantic and CNN noted on Thursday, continues to recommend groups who offer repeatedly debunked anti-vaccine messages.


While searches of specifically named hashtags returned no results on Friday afternoon, variations on the phrases still turn up search results -- which Instagram said it is working on. Clicking on blocked hashtags also will take users to page results with no results.

"We noted that this process would take place over several weeks, but as we take action in the short-term we know that fighting misinformation is a long-term commitment," the spokesperson said.

This crackdown comes after legislators and health officials have called on social media companies to push back against anti-vaccine messages. Some health experts have even taken to social media to dampen fears over anti-vaccine rhetoric.

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