The social media site, Instagram, has just announced that it will be blocking anti-vaccination hashtags, as it says they are being used to spread “verifiably false” information about the safety of the vaccines.
It will be blocking general hashtags, which are currently being used by “anti-vaxxer” groups to spread information and persuade parents not to get their child vaccinated.
The site already blocks hashtags like “#vaccinescauseautism”, “#vaccinesareposion”, and “#vaccinescauseaids”, which has been proven to be false claims. Now it will be extended to include other frequently searched for terms that show anti-vaccination messages to Instagram users.
This follows calls from health campaigners for social media sites like Facebook to put more restrictions on anti-vaccine campaigns, due to the recent outbreaks of measles and other infectious illnesses.
In 2017, there was the highest number of reported cases of measles in over 10 years. And many campaigners claim that there’s a strong correlation between anti-vaccine messages being spread on social media and the rising number of illnesses.
Facebook says: “We’ve taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do. We’re currently working with outside experts on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon”.
In a statement, Instagram said there are a number of accounts dedicated to spreading anti-vaccine messages; however, it won’t be taking any action against these accounts, and instead, will aim to limit the spread of any false claims – as these can have a harmful effect on the public.
The site also said that it will be relying on health authorities, like the CDC and the WHO to identify any future hoaxes, and to block any other hashtags that start being used to promote false claims about vaccines.
In addition, it said that it is considering using educational pop-up messages, that could be used when users search for anti-vaccines related topics.