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Instagram doesn’t like a #fatass or a #slut — at least as hashtags. Those hashtags and a slew of surprising health and wellness-based terms have recently been outed as “banned” words on the popular photo-sharing app.
Instagram has changed the way we keep up with friends and become an unavoidable part of picturesque meals, but the photo-sharing behemoth is also working to mitigate harm on issues surrounding body image. Earlier this week, a new website called The Data Pack posted a lengthy (but admittedly incomplete) list of hashtags Instagram has rendered unsearchable. While many are sexual, sexist, racist, and decidedly #NSFW, a surprising chunk are familiar buzzwords within the fitness community, with #thinspiration, #instabody, and #loseweight all being rendered unsearchable on the platform (you can still tag your posts with “banned” hashtags, but they aren’t clickable once posted).
So why would #nopecsnosex be grouped in with #slut and #incest as an Instagram no-no? While The Data Pack’s findings are making waves right now, Instagram actually addressed the issue in a 2012 blog post detailing their policy on self-harm images and accounts. The company has gradually banned hashtags they fear could support trends surrounding eating disorders and negative body image — hence no #thinspo or #fatass. The official language in their Community Guidelines is excerpted below:
Don’t promote or glorify self-harm: While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or to cut, harm themselves, or commit suicide will result in a disabled account without warning. We believe that communication regarding these behaviors in order to create awareness, come together for support and to facilitate recovery is important, but that Instagram is not the place for active promotion or glorification of self-harm.
Pinterest and Tumblr have taken similar stances by banning hashtags they believe could support or even encourage eating disorders. And while Facebook, which bought Instagram in April 2012, has taken a hard stance on obscenity, at least some of the banned hashtags still work on that platform: Add #fatass to a post, and it’s still a clickable, searchable term, as pictured below.
Still, users have circumnavigated these policies by creating typographic variations with numbers and characters, for example “#th1nspo.” Of course, it’s not just the platforms themselves that are taking action. Several other companies and individuals have taken to the web to provide support and encouragement to those struggling with eating disorders and body image. And social media can also be a great way to reward healthy behavior, allowing us to broadcast everything from a new pair of running shoes to that first successful 5K.
A Few of the Banned Hashtags:
Is Instagram doing the right thing? We want to know your thoughts. Sound off by taking the poll below, or tweet the author @d_tao.