There has been a lot of chatter this week about Instagram banning certain hashtags. A list of recently banned Instagram hashtags include #EDM, #goddess, and #curvy (EDM, goddess, and curvy, respectively – “EDM” stands for Electronic Dance Music). But why? Here’s why.
First, despite all the talk of these and other hashtags being ‘banned’, in reality they aren’t. You can, and always could, post these hashtags. Rather, there are hashtags for which Instagram was not turning up search results in their search function.
In other words, you can tag your pictures with these hashtags, but it may mean that when people do a search on that hashtag, your image won’t be turned up in the search results.
If you understand that, then you will find it much easier to understand this: Instagram either limits or removes entirely the search results for hashtags that have become hijacked by people posting inappropriate images tagged with those hashtags.
In an article over on ReCode, an Instagram spokesperson explained that they will do this for “any term that returns inappropriate or pornographic results that exceed a certain threshold.”
Of course Instagram doesn’t say what that threshold is (that would defeat the purpose) but they do acknowledge that recently the terms #curvy, #EDM, and #goddess were all hijacked in this way and hit the threshold.
What we can say is that other terms show images that would arguably be offensive, so clearly haven’t hit that threshold, and also that the terms #EDM, #curvy, and #goddess all return search results now.
Search results for the Instagram #NoFilter hashtag show things that some would find offensive
Search results for the Instagram hashtag #goddess
Search results for the Instagram hashtag #curvy
Search results for the Instagram hashtag #EDM
As you can see, the search results for the hashtags #goddess, #curvy, and #EDM have been reinstated. So you may be wondering what the big deal is, and why we are even writing about this.
Well, because a big deal was made of the intermittant removal of these (among other) Instagram search results, all over social media.
For example, Shape Magazine wrote a whole article about how Instagram’s ‘banning’ the hashtag #curvy was “a big mistake”, and MTV seemed to find something almost conspiratorially sexist about the removal of search results for #goddess, a term that MTV calls “traditionally used in the context of female empowerment and praise.”
The hue and cry has even been raised across the pond, with Britain’s Daily Mail noting that “Unhappy users say the ban was unjustified, calling it an ‘anti-woman move’ alongside the site’s banning (then un-banning) of the hashtag #curvy just last week.”
But the Instagram-bashing seems a bit unfair. Instagram is, it seems, going through great pains to deal with a situation born almost certainly of their rise in the Internet pantheon – in otherwords, with great popularity comes great traffic – and people taking advantage of all those eyeballs; in this case, people inserting inappropriate images into search results that they know will get a lot of searches.
In fact, to deal with this, Instagram has even gone so far as hand-picking results in order to not completely shut down results for these abused hashtags. Example: Instagram told ReCode that they had put up hand-selected images in order to reinstate search results for the #curvy hashtag, some results for which you see in the above image. They also did this for the #CaitlynJenner hashtag when Internet trolls started posting hateful images with the #CaitlynJenner hashtag.
Says Instagram, “we have a responsibility to act when we see hashtags being used to spread inappropriate content to our community.”
Even if that community doesn’t appreciate it.
Frankly, we think that some members of that community may have a little too much time on their hands.
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