Instagram will block hashtag pages full of vaccine misinfo

Instagram will begin blocking vaccine-related hashtag pages when content surfaced on a hashtag page features a large proportion of verifiably false content about vaccines. If there is some violating content but under that threshold, Instagram will lock a hashtag into a “Top-only” post where Recent posts won’t show up to decrease visibility of problematic content. Instagram says that it will test this approach and expand it to other problemaic content genres if it works.

One other new change announced this week is that Instagram will no longer determine whether to suspend an account based on the percentage of their content that violates policies, but by a tally of total violations within a certain period of time. Otherwise, Newton says “It would disproportionately benefit those that have a large amount of posts” because even a large number of violations would be a smaller percentage than a rare violation by someone who doesn’t post often. Instagram won’t disclose the exact time frame or number of violations that trigger suspensions to prevent bad actors from gaming the system.

Instagram recently announced several new tests on the safety front at F8, including a “nudge” not to post a potentially hateful comment a user has typed, “away mode” for taking a break from Instagram without deleting your account, and a way to “manage interations” so you can ban people from taking certain actions like commenting on your content or DMing you without blocking them entirely.

The announcement comes as Instagram has solidified its central place in youth culture. That means it has intense responsibility to protect its user base from bullying, hate speech, graphic content, drugs, misinformation, and extremism. “We work really closely with subject matter experts, raise issues that might be playing out differently on Instagram than Facebook, and we identify gaps where we need to change how our policies are operationalized or our policies are changed” says Instagram’s head of public policy Karina Newton.

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