Threads Takes Controversial Measures to Censor COVID-Related Content Amid Rising Cases

Threads blocks searches related to covid and vaccines as cases rise

LOS ANGELES — In a swift and controversial move, Instagram’s text-based platform Threads launched its new search feature, aiming to keep pace with Twitter (now known as X). However, within mere hours, the platform found itself embroiled in a heated debate. Users attempting to search for “covid” and “long covid” were met with an unsettling blank screen, redirecting them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Meta, the parent company, confirmed that Threads intentionally blocks these search terms, yet declined to disclose the full list of restricted keywords. Our investigation revealed that terms like “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” “porn,” “coronavirus,” “vaccines,” and “vaccination” are also prohibited.

In their official statement, Meta explained, “The search functionality temporarily withholds results for potentially sensitive content, until we ensure the quality of results.”

Dr. Lucky Tran, Director of Science Communication at Columbia University, expressed his frustration when attempting to find COVID-related research on Threads. I was really excited about the search feature in Threads, but unfortunately, when I tried searching for ‘covid’, it didn’t yield any results.

Public health experts criticized the timing of this decision amid a COVID resurgence. Hospitalizations in the United States have surged by nearly 16%, though still lower than last year, and deaths remain a fraction of the previous year’s figures.

Julia Doubleday, Outreach Director at the World Health Network, condemned the move, stating, “Social media is a lifeline for patients, especially those suffering from long covid. Ceasing communication abruptly is both cruel and unjustifiable.

Dr. Tran added, “Censoring COVID searches hampers public health experts and misleads the public. We need to elevate trusted sources and address misinformation.”

A Pew Research Center survey from 2021 revealed that 4 in 10 American adults consider social media vital for COVID vaccine news.

This incident highlights Meta’s attempts to avoid controversy on Threads. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri previously stated Threads wouldn’t focus on politics or hard news. However, real-time news-sharing remains essential for platforms like Twitter.

Fiona Lowenstein, editor of “The Long COVID Survival Guide,” emphasized the role of social media in raising awareness about long covid. She noted that the term “long covid” originated on Twitter before being adopted by health organizations.

Emily Vraga, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, questioned Threads’ suitability as a Twitter replacement and Meta’s content moderation abilities.

Hany Farid, a UC Berkeley professor specializing in technology and disinformation, sees blocking search results as an imprecise moderation method. He suggests it might indicate Meta’s reluctance to invest in more effective content moderation tools.

Blocking specific words is ultimately futile, Farid argued, as users will quickly find ways to circumvent the restrictions.

Threads Takes Controversial Measures to Censor COVID-Related Content Amid Rising Cases

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top