COVID source callout: You can’t search for COVID-19 information on Threads

Threads, the new text-based social media platform from Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram), has blocked users from searching about COVID-19 or Long COVID. The block is a harmful choice by Meta, which will make it difficult for health experts, people with Long COVID, and other seeking information to find each other on this platform.

A search function became available on Threads last week, reports Taylor Lorenz in The Washington Post. Health experts and COVID-conscious users tested it out, and quickly discovered that searching for “COVID” or “Long COVID” led to a blank screen with no seach results. Threads instead directed the users to the CDC’s website.

Lorenz received a statement from Meta confirming that the company is blocking these search results:

Meta acknowledged in a statement to The Washington Post that Threads is intentionally blocking the search terms and said that other terms are being blocked, but the company declined to provide a list of them. A search by The Post discovered that the words “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” “porn,” “coronavirus,” “vaccines” and “vaccination” are also among blocked words.

“The search functionality temporarily doesn’t provide results for keywords that may show potentially sensitive content,” the statement said, adding that the company will add search functionality for terms only “once we are confident in the quality of the results.”

It’s unclear what steps Meta is taking to improve the “quality of the results” when users search for COVID-19 information, or when these searches will be available. But for now, experts and advocates who spoke to Lorenz say that the information block is harmful. “Censoring searches for COVID and Long COVID will only leave an information gap that will be filled by misinformation from elsewhere,” said science communicator Lucky Tran.

I personally am not on Threads, and this recent news makes me even more wary of the platform than I’d been already. If you’re looking for a Twitter/X alternative to follow me on, I’ve been trying out Mastodon and Bluesky.

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