Meta blocks sensitive topics from Threads search.

Meta blocks sensitive topics from Threads search.

Meta’s Threads App Blocks Searches for “Potentially Sensitive” Keywords

Threads App

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has introduced keyword-searching abilities in its Threads app. However, it has now come to light that certain topics are being blocked from search results. The company is currently preventing users from searching for “potentially sensitive” words, including “vaccines” and “covid.” This move is aimed at curbing the spread of controversial content on the app, which has been associated with misinformation in the past.

The Washington Post first reported on Meta’s decision to block certain search terms. The company is actively preventing searches related to COVID-19 and vaccines, along with terms like “gore,” “nude,” and “sex” that are associated with potentially unsavory content. This temporary measure by Meta aims to avoid the dissemination of misinformation and protect users from harmful and misleading information.

Meta has confirmed the blocking of search results in a statement to The Post, emphasizing the temporary nature of the measure. The company’s spokesperson stated, “The search functionality temporarily doesn’t provide results for keywords that may show potentially sensitive content.” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram who also oversees Threads, further explained the decision on Twitter, expressing the company’s desire to be cautious and learn from past mistakes as they roll out search functionality.

Meta’s concern over search functionality on Threads stems from their prior experiences with Instagram. Instagram’s search feature has faced criticism for its role in spreading misinformation and leading users towards conspiratorial content. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the app’s search results often promoted anti-vax accounts, creating further confusion and misinformation among users searching for vaccine-related information.

However, Meta’s decision to block all searches containing “potentially sensitive” keywords, even if the posts don’t contain rule-breaking content, is an aggressive approach compared to their previous actions. While Meta has previously limited search functionality on Facebook and Instagram, they typically intervened when search terms were explicitly linked to rule-breaking content, such as hashtags associated with QAnon. They have also worked on optimizing search results for topics like vaccines while providing in-app Public Service Announcements (PSAs) directing users to official resources.

While Meta’s cautious approach to search on Threads may be well-intentioned, it has unintended consequences. By blocking all searches related to COVID-19, users are prohibited from accessing valuable information, credible resources, and conversations that adhere to the platform’s rules. This barrier can hinder those who are seeking advice or reliable information from experts.

Meta’s approach also highlights the rushed development of Threads. The app was released a mere five months after a small team of Instagram engineers began working on it. The quick development timeline meant that Threads launched with several basic features missing from the service. While Meta claims that Threads adheres to the same safety policies as Instagram, they have not provided many details regarding content moderation on this Twitter-like app, which has a distinct look and feel.

In conclusion, Meta’s decision to block searches for “potentially sensitive” keywords on the Threads app is an attempt to address concerns about the spread of misinformation. However, it simultaneously limits access to information and resources for users. This cautious approach underscores the hasty development of Threads and the challenges Meta faces in ensuring a safe and reliable platform experience for its users.