Instagram is joining the online crusade to prevent anti-vaxxers from spreading misinformation.
Earlier this year, its parent company, Facebook, pledged to fight against circulating conspiracy theories online, but search results concerning anti-vaccination remained accessible.
On Thursday, the popular app announced they would effectively block hashtags associated with false information that could deter people from getting vaccinated.
Karina Newton, Instagram's global head of public policy explained how they would enforce the new policy.
"If the hashtag was #vaccines1234, if it contained a high proportion of known vaccine misinformation, we would block that hashtag entirely."
Instagram clarified that "known vaccine misinformation" refers to information that the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have verified as false.
The latest announcement is in response to journalists putting on the pressure as New York declared a "public health emergency" in April due to another measles outbreak affecting 300 people.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that anti-vaxxers are responsible for the outbreaks and castigated them for being a "part of an insidious, well-funded campaign to take advantage of parents who just want to take care of their kids. "
Instagram already blocks hashtags linking to false information, but now the company will delve deeper through the use of machine learning to study which hashtags are associated with posts removed under the misinformation policy.
All hashtags with a "high proportion" of misinformation will be blocked. The Verge added that Instagram did not disclose the percentage so as to avoid users from challenging the system.
In an effort to educate users looking up vaccination information in their searches, Instagram confirmed they will employ pop-ups with high-quality information, though its wording is still being finalized.
The policing of ant-vax content just started, so users should not expect to notice significant changes yet.
But some hashtags have already seen the ax.
Newton said, "It's going to take some time to continue the work on it," as users may still come across anti-vaxx propaganda while Instagram begins the process of removing such information.
Better late than never.