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Instagram relaxes terms on censored hashtags, but its criteria remains confusing

This summer it was revealed that even though you might participate in #sexualwednesday every week on Instagram, the platform was actually blocking those hashtags. Those – and many more.

There were a lot of questions raised once the full list got out; why was Instagram making #foodorgasm and #bitchdontkillmyvibes unsearchable, but #junkiesofIG and #uglyslutsaturday were still OK? The discrepency between blocked and unblocked was confusing and made little to no sense.

But as it turns out, the same social data team that released the list went digging again and found out that Instagram has relaxed its terms considerably. Here’s the new full list of what’s allowed and what still isn’t:

ig list hashtag

The Data Pack says that the first go-around, Instagram was omitting hashtags that had certain words (which appeared to be explicit or sexual language, as well as phrases of the four letter variety) instead of looking at the hashtag in its entirety. That’s why #junkiesofIG slipped past; separately, those words are rather harmless (sure, junkie has a known connotation, but it’s not as blatant as “orgasm” or “sex,” which pretty much only mean what they mean).

According to the new lists, the content that remains unsearchable errs to the sexual or pornographic side – though the censorship of #loseweight certainly suggests Instagram is trying to keep thinspiration content out of the platform. #Pronorexia and #probulimia are also blocked, but again, these are very blatant, where as #loseweight could (maybe) be interpreted otherwise. But there’s no place for any suggestion of this sort on Instagram, so it’s been blocked.

But there are still some confusing choices here:

  • #birthdaysex is OK but #instabody is not
  • #boobz is OK but #boobs is not
  • #fuckinsong is OK but #instasex is not 
  • #thinspo is OK but #thinspiration is not 
  • #getnakedpls is OK but #strip is not
  • #mouthtopenis is OK but #shirtless is not

Incongruities aside, the relaxed terms for searchable hashtags comes just as Instagram is officially running ads in the feed. Just a coincidence, or does the timing suggest some brands out there want to make use of the formerly censored #boobimplants hashtag? Probably not, says The Data Tank founder Nick Drewe, who calls it “more of a response” to how confused we all were when the former list was released. “It’s clear they were a bit over-cautious with the first list.” 

He also points out that it’s clear Instagram is trying to keep illicit content off the platform and protect users – though there is a fine line for the network to walk between protecting and censoring. And of course, much confusion over why certain hashtags are banned and others aren’t (see above) remain. 

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