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Why is Meta’s Threads blocking searches about covid-19?

Due to the slow rollout of the social media site’s search function, terms listed as “potentially sensitive content” will yield no results.

FILE PHOTO: Meta's Threads app logo is seen in this illustration  taken July 4, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Threads, Meta’s Twitter competitor, seems like it has already faded into obscurity. You may not have even been aware that a search function was only released last week, months after its released.

It has already been embroiled in problems. Search terms including ‘covid’ currently have no results, having a pop-up to the CDC website. Clearly, the website does not have the content moderation levels it wants to have.

“The search functionality temporarily doesn’t provide results for keywords that may show potentially sensitive content,” a statement send to The Washington Press said. “People will be able to search for keywords such as ‘COVID’ in future updates once we are confident in the quality of the results.”

Other terms currently banned include “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” “porn,” “coronavirus,” “vaccines” and “vaccination”.

What this currently means is that Meta does not trust the mechanisms currently in place to prevent misinformation on Threads. This is in contrast to Twitter, which has taken the opposite route and left the doors open for lies and misinformation spread by the new verified accounts system.

In terms of covid-19, hospitalisations jumped 16 percent in the US last week and have been rising since July, according to CDC data. There is a new covid-19 variant which is resulting in these new cases.

Public health experts fume at Meta

Health experts are understandably not happy with the lack of information on Threads surrounding covid-19.

Lucky Tran, director of science communication at Columbia University, said, “Censoring searches for covid and long covid will only leave an information gap that will be filled by misinformation from elsewhere.”

“The best solution is to take proactive steps to elevate multiple trusted sources and address misinformation.”

Julia Doubleday, outreach director at the World Health Network, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the coronavirus, said, “Social media is a lifeline for patients, literally... Cutting off communication between suffering and disabled patients is cruel in the extreme. It’s indefensible.”