Threads blocks searches related to covid and vaccines as cases rise

Threads blocks searches related to covid and vaccines as cases rise

The Washington Post reports:

Instagram’s text-based social platform Threads last week rolled out its new search function, a crucial step toward the platform’s expansion and one that would give it more parity with X, formerly known as Twitter.

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Not even 24 hours later, the company was embroiled in controversy. When users went to Threads to search for content related to “covid” and “long covid,” they were met with a blank screen that showed no search results and a pop-up linking to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meta acknowledged in a statement to The Washington Post that Threads is intentionally blocking the search terms and said that other terms are being blocked, but the company declined to provide a list of them. A search by The Post discovered that the words “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” “porn,” “coronavirus,” “vaccines” and “vaccination” are also among blocked words.

“The search functionality temporarily doesn’t provide results for keywords that may show potentially sensitive content,” the statement said, adding that the company will add search functionality for terms only “once we are confident in the quality of the results.”

Lucky Tran, director of science communication at Columbia University, discovered this himself when he attempted to use Threads to seek out research related to covid, something he says he does every day. “I was excited by search [on Threads],” he said. “When I typed in covid, I came up with no search results.”

Other public health workers criticized the company’s decision and said its timing was especially poor, given the current coronavirus uptick. Hospitalizations jumped nearly 16 percent in the United States last week and have been rising steadily since July, according to CDC data, though they remain less than what they were for the comparable week a year ago. Deaths are less than a quarter of what they were year to year, CDC statistics show. [Continue reading…]

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