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Pinterest continues its crackdown on health misinformation

Pinterest continues its crackdown on health misinformation
[Photo: Senior Airman Areca Wilson/Wikimedia Commons]

Pinterest is going a step further to moderate what people see when they look up vaccine-related terms like “measles” and “flu shot.”

The social network said today that it’s working with a handful of health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to fight misinformation about vaccines by serving up vetted content instead of its typical algorithmic search results. Pinterest says the curated pages won’t include recommendations, comments, or ads “because we believe that showing vaccine misinformation alongside resources from public health experts isn’t responsible.”

Pinterest has attempted to limit misleading posts about vaccines on its service for years. It officially banned certain types of health misinformation in its community guidelines in 2017, and booted certain “natural” and “alternative health” publishers for breaking its rules a year later. The company then temporarily blocked certain vaccine-related search results wholesale in December 2018.

Stepping back, Pinterest has not scrubbed its service of every misleading health-related post that users have generated. A search for “autism vaccine” will bring you curated results from organizations like the CDC, but at the time this story was written Pinterest delivered its standard, conflicting results for similar searches, such as “Autistic vaccine.” Pinterest said in a post on its blog that it will “need to keep evolving our list of terms for which we block medical misinformation and provide expert advice as people try to get around our safeguards. We’ll also continue to remove this content and accounts that spread it from our service.”

Over at Co.Design, our Mark Wilson has more analysis about whether Pinterest’s design is effective. Check it out here.

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