Meta’s Threads blocks COVID-19 and pandemic-related searches, citing sensitivity concerns

The company plans to reinstate the ability to search for these keywords in future updates, once they are confident in result accuracy.

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Meta’s social media platform, Threads, has temporarily blocked searches related to COVID-19 and pandemic-related topics. The decision, first noticed and reported on Monday, directs users searching for keywords like COVID-19, vaccine, or coronavirus to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for information.

Meta explained that this measure aims to prevent potentially sensitive content from appearing in search results and that users will regain the ability to search for these keywords in future updates when the company is confident in result quality.

The exact timeline for the policy rollback remains unspecified, and a comprehensive list of blocked words has not been provided. This move comes amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalisations in the United States. Threads has been working to enhance its platform’s functionality, recently adding a web browser version and keyword search capabilities.

Why does it matter?

While Meta stated that the blocking is temporary and aimed at preventing sensitive content, the lack of a clear timeline for restoring search functionality and the undisclosed list of blocked words could be seen as arbitrary and lacking transparency. Given that social media platforms have become a primary information source for countless users, especially in light of the persistent challenges posed by COVID-19, such as the emergence of new variants and ongoing vaccination campaigns, Meta must expedite the restoration of information access.