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 rolls out new rules to tackle anti-vax posts https://t.co/DcFX54eRw9— Angel Sánchez (@Angel Sánchez)1557476603.0
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.
Instagram finally gets serious about cracking down on anti-vax lies https://t.co/brHEufV0MW https://t.co/G5uXkQs428— Josh Constine (@Josh Constine)1557419648.0
Instagram shows off its moderators' content review interface. Here, ranking humans isn't allowed, so this post woul… https://t.co/PhEbMJAwEx— Josh Constine (@Josh Constine)1557420164.0
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.
Instagram now uses "text-matching banks" of both indexed text & optical character recognition from inside images to… https://t.co/cssg795MfT— Josh Constine (@Josh Constine)1557421746.0
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.
Instagram is going to use a pop-up warning, similar to the one for self-harm content, for anti-vax searches. They’l… https://t.co/tRMYulbZxB— Katie Notopoulos 🎈 (@Katie Notopoulos 🎈)1557266704.0
The policing of ant-vax content just started, so users should not expect to notice significant changes yet.
@oliverdarcy yep. 5 out of the 6 top results for me right now https://t.co/1PQo41WCU5— Jon Passantino (@Jon Passantino)1555451032.0
But some hashtags have already seen the ax.
Thank you @instagram for blocking the hashtag “VaccinesKill.” If you want a list of things that WILL kill you... fe… https://t.co/VxgZjXXUXG— Jessica W. (@Jessica W.)1557439260.0
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.