Meta Confirms Threads is Blocking COVID Search Terms
Instagram’s newly introduced search functionality on Threads, its text-based social platform, quickly faced controversy after users discovered blocked search terms related to “covid” and “long covid.”
Upon attempting these searches, a blank screen appeared with a pop-up directing users to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, reports The Washington Post.
Parent company Meta confirmed the intentional blocking in a statement to The Washington Post. They noted that the search feature currently withholds results for keywords that might yield “potentially sensitive content.” They further explained that search functionality for certain terms would only be restored when the quality of the results could be ensured. Other blocked keywords discovered by The Post include “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” and “vaccines.”
This decision was met with criticism from the public health community, especially amidst a rise in U.S. coronavirus cases. Julia Doubleday from the World Health Network commented on the value of social media for patients to share information and called the decision “indefensible.”
Lucky Tran, director of science communication at Columbia University, highlighted the challenge this poses for public health professionals trying to share vital information. Furthermore, he voiced concerns about the potential information vacuum being filled with misinformation.
The incident illustrates Meta’s cautious approach with Threads. Previously, Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri, mentioned that Threads will steer clear of politics and “hard news.”
Mosseri responded to criticism on X (which does not block search terms) yesterday, saying, “I hear you, and we’re working to support more searches quickly. We’re trying to learn from last mistakes and believe it’s better to bias towards being careful as we roll out search.”
What do you think about Threads blocking search terms on purpose?