The FDA’s clearance of a new round of COVID boosters is a topic lots of people are likely to discuss on social media. But don’t bother searching for it on Threads.
The Meta-owned Twitter alternative has put filters on its recently introduced keyword-search function, blocking words such as “vaccines,” “COVID” and other terms it considers potentially problematic.
The Washington Post was the first to spot the filters, which also include “nude,” “sex,” “porn” and “coronavirus”.
Meta did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment about the filter, but told the Post “The search functionality temporarily doesn’t provide results for keywords that may show potentially sensitive content,” adding it would add those terms back “once we are confident in the quality of the results.”
Users who attempt to search for the blocked words are met with a mostly blank screen that simply reads “no results”.
Responding to criticisms on Twitter, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram and Threads, said the decision to block certain terms was done out of an abundance of caution, following the spread of misinformation during the heart of the pandemic.
“I hear you, and we’re working to support more searches quickly. We’re trying to learn from last mistakes and believe it’s better to bias towards being careful as we roll out search,” he wrote.
However well meaning, the decision to block certain discussion topics has put Meta on the defensive, especially as COVID cases begin to rise once again. Hospitalizations from the virus were up 16% in the U.S. last week and have been rising since July. Health officials worry that blocking discussion of the topic on social media could result in fewer people getting a booster shot this fall and prevent them from getting more information about the spread of the virus.
The action underscores how much of a work in progress Threads is. Launched to great acclaim, the site has been struggling to keep users as it did not offer a Web version or any sort of search functionality until last month.
Peak usage saw 44 million users on the site. As of July 31, however, the daily active user count for the site have dropped 82%, according to the latest data from Sensor Tower.