Instagram will BLOCK anti-vaxxer hashtags in crackdown on medical fake news
Instagram will block anti-vaxx hashtags in an ongoing attempt to crack down on medical misinformation being shared on the social-media site.
The Facebook-owned company announced it will minimise ‘recommendations of this content and accounts that post it’.
‘Short-term measures’ will include blocking hashtags associated with ‘known health-related misinformation’, including #vaccinescauseautism, #vaccinesarepoison and #vaccinescauseharm.
However, a spokesperson from the social-media giant warned it will take several weeks for the move to come into effect, with these hashtags still being active on Instagram today.
Vaccines are one of the greatest advances of modern medicine, rendering life-threatening diseases that could reach epidemic proportions into rarities.
The spread of misinformation online has been blamed for the ‘anti-vaxx brigade’, considered one of the greatest threats to public health worldwide.
Instagram vows to crack down on medical misinformation by blocking anti-vaxx posts (stock)
Pictured is a post that comes up under the search #vaccinescauseallergies
Vaccination fears soared following a study by the disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab can lead to autism in 1995.
His controversial views have since been widely discredited and Wakefield has been struck off – but vaccination rates plummeted in the wake of the study.
An Instagram spokesperson said in a statement: ‘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.
‘[This includes] in “Suggested For You”, Explore and hashtags.
‘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.’
Although searching for anti-vaxx content still brings up a host of results, Instagram bosses insist clicking on a blocked hashtag will soon take users to a blank page without results.
This comes after Facebook announced at the beginning of the month it will be limiting anti-vaxx misinformation from its groups, pages and news feeds.
Adam Schiff – US representative for California’s 28th congressional district – pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s chief executive officer Sundar Pichai over the spread of anti-jab fake news on these platforms.
Mr Schiff claimed algorithms demonstrate Facebook and Google – which owns YouTube – are promoting anti-vaxx messages.
In another attempt to crack down on the anti-vaxx brigade, Facebook has banned adverts that include ‘misinformation about vaccines’, according to a blog post put out by the social-media giant.
A controversial advert was banned on Facebook last November for claiming all jabs have the potential to kill a child.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the paid-for post by Stop Mandatory Vaccination was ‘distressing’ and ‘misleading’.
And YouTube announced it will no longer recommend anti-jab videos to its users.
The Facebook-owned company has come under pressure from lawyers and public-health experts for not doing enough to stop the anti-vaxx brigade. Pictured is a controversial post that questions the safety of jabs that comes up when users search for vaccines
Pictured is another anti-vaxx post that Instagram users can easily find via the search bar
The US is in the midst of a measles outbreak, which has struck 15 states and is believed to be driven by growing anti-vaccine sentiments.
Social media has helped the movement gain momentum, with anti-vaxxers often leaving a slew of comments objecting the scientifically-proven preventative measure.
In order for vaccines to protect a population from diseases, between 90 and 95 per cent of that group needs to have gotten their shots.
But in 2017, just 70 per cent of toddlers in the US aged between 19 and 35 months old had received all of the vaccinations recommended to them by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And while the UK remains a world leader in vaccine coverage, rates have declined in nine of 12 vaccinations given routinely to children in England, figures show.
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
Andrew Wakefield’s discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates
In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004, the editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by a group pursuing lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practising medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.
Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.