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Brief Published: 30 Aug 2013

Instagram’s Unsearchable Hashtags


Image-sharing platform Instagram has become one of the first social media sites to actively block specific hashtags in order to protect users and prohibit the accumulation of offensive images. 

Hashtags are a key tool within the domain of social media and are used to search for subjects and trending topics, working to drive traffic, increase followers and join conversations. For many personal users, the hashtag is used simply as a fun way to communicate between friends. 

From a beauty perspective, Instagram has made hashtags such as #proanorexia #thinspiration and #loseweight unsearchable, making overtly underweight bodies or unattainable and unhealthy body ideals less readily available to users. This is a significant move for the image-sharing app and quite unlike social media sites such as Twitter and Tumblr, which currently only work to remove offensive content once it’s already been posted. It is especially relevant for the female-centric user base of Instagram and suggests some progress in the ever-present body-image debate within the media.

Along with ‘thinspo’ hashtags, suggestive, lewd and sexual terms have also been made unsearchable in an attempt to cut down on offensive or pornographic imagery. Interestingly, Instagram hasn’t stopped there – it has also banned what it terms ‘generic’ hashtags such as ‘photography’ and ‘iphone’, so that they produce zero results when searched for.

See Celebrating the Imperfect for more on contemporary beauty marketing and Olympic Ideals: Strong as the New Skinny for an insight into the modern, healthier approach to body image.