Twitter is rolling out a new search tool to direct users toward authoritative information on vaccines instead of misinformation from anti-vaccine campaigns, according to The Verge. The first tweet to appear when using Twitter’s search function to search the word ‘vaccines’ is now a post from United States Department of Health and Human Services. It includes links to credible, verified health information about vaccines on the agency’s website, vaccines.gov.
The search function will also no longer generate auto-fill search suggestions of terms that would lead users to misinformation.
A blog post from Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, said “at Twitter, we understand the importance of vaccines in preventing illness and disease and recognize the role that Twitter plays in disseminating important public health information. We think it’s important to help people find reliable information that enhances their health and well-being.”
Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have been facing mounting pressure to tamp down on the spread of anti-vaccine propaganda on their platforms. The US has seen a record number of measles cases this year, the most since the disease was eliminated in 2000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 839 cases in 23 states. Social media played a large role in facilitating the rapid spread of misinformation on the safety of vaccines.
In March, Facebook said it would rank groups and pages promoting anti-vaccine content lower in its News Feed and search results. Pinterest has taken an even more active approach, blocking anti-vaccination searches entirely, and removing anti-vaccination content. And YouTube said earlier this year that it would pull ads from anti-vaccination videos. Last week, Instagram said it would hide search results for anti-vaccines hashtags.
Twitter’s new search tool is already active on Android, iOS, the mobile site, and the new design of their desktop site, in the US and UK, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Korea, and Spanish-speaking Latin American nations.
“We’re committed to protecting the health of the public conversation on Twitter. Ensuring individuals can find information from authoritative sources is a key part of that mission,” the company said in its blog post. “This new investment builds on our existing work to guard against the artificial amplification of non-credible content about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”