Meta’s Threads is blocking Covid-19 searches

12 Sep 2023

Image: © sdx15/

Meta said it’s temporarily limiting Threads search results for keywords that may show sensitive content, though this could affect public opinion of an app that is hanging on by a ‘thread’.

Meta has been criticised for its Threads search function, which appears to be blocking searches connected to certain topics.

One of these topics is Covid-19, which appears to have caused a recent rise in US hospitalisations according to CDC data. The issue was first reported by The Washington Post, which also claimed words like ‘gore’ and ‘vaccines’ led to no search results.

Meta’s head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said on X that the company is trying to learn from previous mistakes and that “it’s better to bias towards being careful as we roll out Search”. A company spokesperson told CNN that the app’s search function “temporarily” doesn’t provide results for keywords that “may show potentially sensitive content”.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a rise of misinformation campaigns regarding the virus back in 2020, which was propagated by various social media sites. Companies like Meta appear to have taken measures to crack down on misinformation in recent years.

But the solution appears uncertain. A UK report in January 2022 suggested that removing online misinformation may do more harm than good, as it could drive misinformation content – and people who may act upon it – towards “harder-to-address corners of the internet”.

Threads isn’t the only social media app that is blocking potentially sensitive searches, it seems. A recent report by MediaMatters claimed TikTok temporarily blocked searches related to ‘WGA’ – the Writers Guild of America, which is currently on strike in the US.

A TikTok spokesperson told MediaMatters that this term was “inadvertently blocked” as part of the protections against QAnon conspiracy theories and that these searches now function normally.

Linked with Instagram, the Threads app saw rapid success initially, surpassing 100m users less than five days after its release and turning it into one of the most successful launches of all time. But this hype died down quickly, due to various reasons such as a lack of notable features compared to its rival site, X. By the end of July, the number of active users had more than halved.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic