Last week, the Facebook-owned social media platform Threads finally rolled out its search function for users. However, it only took a few hours for people to figure out the social media giant was censoring what they can and can’t search for. According to a report this week in The Washington Post, when users search for content related to “COVID,” they’re only met with a blank screen and a pop-up linking to the CDC website.
The report in the Post also revealed that the words “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” “porn,” “coronavirus,” “vaccines” and “vaccination” are blocked. According to the company, it blocked these terms until it can feel more confident in the quality of search results. However, experts have already criticized Facebook for stopping the flow of useful information and opening the door for misinformation to enter.
“The decision to censor searches about COVID will make it harder for public health experts and people who work in public health to get out important info to the public about how they can protect themselves,” said Lucky Tran, the director of science communication at Columbia University. “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.”
While Facebook’s explanation for this decision makes sense, the company should be more careful when it comes to censoring information. It already has a bad reputation, and moves like this risk making it even worse.
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