Instagram expands baffling list of censored hashtags to stem the rise of NSFW pics

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Gannon Burgett
Instagram may be your go-to platform for positive images of healthy, beautiful, glamorous people, and products, but like most social networks, it also has a dark side.

The photo-sharing app is home to its fair share of pornographic images and videos. Its moderators work hard to censor these types of images, which violate Instagram’s terms of use. Nonetheless, a daily barrage of illicit content means NSFW posts and accounts often creep under the radar, at least temporarily.

Instagram has always targeted these posts by banning certain hashtags, which cut off users from grouping together pornographic, violent, or unlawful content using specific words. That list was recently expanded to include a second level of censorship that targets even more hashtags, according to The Data Pack. The targeted terminology now goes beyond more obvious words related to pornography, and includes some downright baffling entries.

Among the hashtags that no longer bring up an extensive list of search results on the app are #kansas, #easter, #desk, and #citycentre. At present, a search for a blocked word — such as #kansas, for example — brings up the following message: “Recent posts from #kansas are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines.”

Which leads us to question what exactly is going on in Kansas that is so damn inappropriate? Actually, it’s not as simple as that. In reality, the 189 hashtags that are currently censored, whether temporarily or not, were likely associated with some form of inappropriate content. The problem that Instagram faces is that despite the crackdown on hashtags, the same NSFW posts end up making their way back on to the app.

An additional 118 hashtags were identified as being completely censored due to their explicit or mildly pornographic nature. The latter includes terms such as #cleavage, #sexual, and #booty. Terms that imply self-harm or anorexia, such as #thinspo, #loseweight, and #probulimia have also been axed. Even in this field there are some outliers, including #like, #popular, and #ILoveMyInstagram, which all look pretty harmless on the surface.

To compile the list of banned hashtags, The Data Pack’s Nick Drewe used the Instagram API, and trawled through over 10,000 tags in total. Aside from the permanently banned hashtags, the other updated terms may only be under a temporary ban, meaning they were blocked at the time of publication but could now be active again.

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