Meta's recently launched Threads app has limited its search functionality for certain keywords deemed “potentially sensitive.” The move comes as a precautionary measure against the spread of misinformation, especially related to COVID-19.
A Response to Past Controversies
Threads has restricted searches for terms such as “vaccines,” “covid,” and other variations that have been previously associated with misinformation on Meta's platforms. This decision was first highlighted by The Washington Post and later confirmed by the company.
In a statement, a Meta spokesperson mentioned that this restriction is temporary, and the search functionality will not provide results for keywords that might display sensitive content. This approach is seen as a more aggressive stance than the company's previous actions on its other platforms, Facebook and Instagram.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram and overseer of Threads, commented on the matter via a tweet. He emphasized the company's intent to learn from past errors, stating, “We're trying to learn from last mistakes and believe it's better to bias towards being careful as we roll out search.”
Threads is a text-based social networking app that was launched by Meta in early July 2023. The app is a companion app for Instagram, which means that users need to log in with their Instagram credentials and can share their posts to their Instagram stories. Threads allows users to create and join conversations across Meta's platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Implications and Future Directions
While the intent behind the search restrictions is to prevent the spread of misinformation, it also means users are unable to search for legitimate information and discussions that adhere to the platform's guidelines. This could pose challenges for those seeking credible advice or insights from experts on the platform.
Furthermore, the rapid development and release of Threads, which took only five months, might have contributed to these initial challenges. Although the app was developed in response to the growing demand for a new social media platform, it still lacks several features, making it a work in progress.
In July, shortly after the app made its debut, Meta quickly took action against a growing number of spammers on Threads. The feature, called rate limits, will restrict the number of threads and reposts a user can create or join in a given period.