• | 1:39 pm

Instagram’s Threads faces backlash for blocking covid content

Text-based app draws flak as users report widespread keyword blocking, putting Meta’s ambitions to test

Instagram’s Threads faces backlash for blocking covid content
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Threads, Instagram’s text-based social media app, has courted controversy ever since it launched its new search feature last week.

Users have complained that searches on the app for a slew of terms such as “covid”, “long covid”, and “coronavirus” are drawing a blank. Ditto for keywords such as “vaccinations”, “gore”, and “sex”, among others.

Threads, which was launched on 6 July and initially enabled search for only user accounts, gradually opened the feature up for specific keywords in posts.

In a post on 31 August, Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s chief executive officer, announced the testing of the feature in New Zealand and Australia, before opening it up on 8 September in other countries like Argentina, India, Mexico, and the US.


Post by @mosseri
View on Threads


Threads has intentionally enforced restrictions on the specified search terms, The Washington Post reported, citing a spokesperson for Meta, Instagram’s parent firm.

Meta, while acknowledging that there were other terms subjected to similar blocking measures, declined to offer a comprehensive list of the restricted terms, but said the measure is temporary and applicable only to terms that could “potentially show sensitive content.”

Mosseri acknowledged that Threads is actively working towards supporting more searches.

“We’re trying to learn from (our) last mistakes and believe it’s better to bias towards being careful as we roll out search,” he said in response to criticism on how ‘wholesale’ blocking searches for terms is an irresponsible move.

The launch of the new search feature was expected to bring Threads closer to levelling its reach with X (formerly Twitter).

In July, though Mosseri said his platform is not a “placeholder” for X, Threads took shape right when Elon Musk-run social media giant was as unstable as it had ever been, with Meta wading into the competition all guns blazing.

A distinctive feature of X had always been the efficiency of its search and its ability to connect users to real-time information on important events.

While a search on Threads throws up a randomized display of information, the feature on X sorts results based on category, recent additions or updates, media type, with its advanced search option filtering out specific accounts and hashtags.

Having lost almost half its users since its rollout, Threads is now working to attract new users while retaining the old.


Shireen Khan is a Senior Correspondent at Press Insider. She covers lifestyle, culture, and health. More

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