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Instagram Is Trying To Reroute People Clicking Into The #Coronavirus Hashtag To More Credible Sources

Facebook has also said it would conduct "proactive sweeps" in order to remove or block hashtags spreading misinformation on Instagram.

Posted on February 11, 2020, at 6:15 p.m. ET

Instagram

When users click into the #coronavirus hashtag on Instagram, they will now see a notice encouraging them to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for credible information about the virus.

Instagram officially implemented the update on Sunday after parent company Facebook first announced plans to combat misinformation about the virus two weeks ago.

"When people ... tap a related hashtag on Instagram, we will surface an educational pop-up with credible information," Facebook said.

A company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that the CDC warning was part of an effort to "help reduce the spread of information that could put people in harm's way."

Facebook has also said it would conduct "proactive sweeps" in order to remove or block hashtags spreading misinformation on Instagram. It did not say what hashtags have been removed, if any.

The CDC warning follows initiatives taken by other giant social media platforms, like Pinterest, who also placed a disclaimer above pins and hashtags related to the coronavirus.

BuzzFeed News first encountered Instagram's change when clicking across this Instagram post with the #coronavirus hashtag from a German fitness influencer vacationing in Thailand.

@Fitnessoskar shared a photo of him and his partner kissing in matching face masks, writing, in German, that while they're not afraid of the virus, they're still wearing masks for self-protection. He said he's been getting a lot of questions about whether or not he's fearful about the virus while he's in Phuket, Thailand. He ends his long caption by asking his fans to share their thoughts and opinions on the virus in the comments.

The post is hashtagged with a few things, including #kiss and #coronavirus.

Along with explicit misinformation and directly dangerous content that's being shared about the virus on social media, the hashtag also attracts memes and insensitive jokes.

As happens with any global crises nowadays, a handful of opportune users are also hashtagging #coronavirus for personal content and other self-interest values, like clout.

However, the priority for Facebook and Instagram seems to be posts with overt misinformation.

In addition to the disclaimer, the company said it has offered free advertising credits to health organizations who want to run educational ads about the coronavirus on its platforms, and that it's "closely coordinating" with these organizations to provide "accurate information about the situation."

Large social media companies have come under scrutiny over the years for enabling, or being slow to take action against, misinformed health-related content.

Many false or false posts have spread on Facebook in relation to the coronavirus.

As YouTube and Facebook are trying to crack down on fake and unverified content, among 500 of the most-watched videos featuring the keyword “coronavirus" that BuzzFeed News watched, dozens of videos included unconfirmed or made-up facts. The questionable YouTube videos then are shared to Facebook, where they rapidly go viral.

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