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Instagram plans to block anti-vaccine hashtags on its platform amid measles outbreak

'We're looking at ways to minimize recommendations of this content and accounts that post it across Instagram'

Chesnot/Getty Images

Instagram said it plans to crack down on medical misinformation, including anti-vaccine hashtags, promoted on its platform, according to The Hill.

The company's move comes amid the biggest measles outbreak in the U.S. in nearly two decades and pushback from critics who claim the social media platform hasn't done enough to stop the spread of false claims surrounding childhood vaccinations.

"As part of our work to address health-related misinformation on Instagram, — including in 'Suggested For You', Explore and hashtags," an Instagram spokesperson told The Hill Thursday evening.

Some lawmakers and health professionals believe social media platforms, including Facebook, which owns Instagram, should take actions to block anti-vaccination content online.

Instagram told The Hill that its "short-term measures" would include blocking hashtags associated with "known health-related misinformation including #vaccinescauseautism, #vaccinesarepoison, and #vaccinescauseids."

All three hashtags were searchable Thursday evening, according to The Hill.

"We noted that this process would take place over several weeks," an Instagram spokesperson told the news outlet. "But as we take action in the short-term we know that fighting misinformation is a long-term commitment."

As of Friday morning, TheBlaze found that two of the three hashtags were still searchable.

Blocked hashtags won't show up in searches and if a user clicks on a blocked hashtag, they will be sent to a page with no information, according to reports.

What about Facebook?

A little more than two weeks ago, Facebook announced it would do more to "tackle vaccine misinformation" on its platform.

"We are working to tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic," the company said in a statement March 7.

We will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search. These groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or in predictions when you type into Search.

When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them. We also removed related targeting options, like "vaccine controversies." For ad accounts that continue to violate our policies, we may take further action, such as disabling the ad account.

We won't show or recommend content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.

We are exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic.
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