Instagram blocks or censors the search results of hundreds of hashtags. We have assembled a list of the banned tags, and it is both strange and hilarious.
The Data Pack first released a list of Instagram’s Banned Hashtags in 2013. Since then the list of banned and censored tags has changed, and Instagram has introduced a second level of censorship.
Instagram censors hundreds of hashtags. Some of them make sense, but many of them seem completely absurd.
Searching for these tags reveals only a limited set of up to 33 “Top Posts”, instead of a full set of results, followed by a message:
“Recent posts from #kansas are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines.”
The message implies that the censorship of these hashtags is only temporary. However The Data Pack has found that many of the hashtags have remained censored for at least several months.
Other tags on this list may be censored only temporarily.
The reason why many of these (NSFW) hashtags are censored is obvious. Other more inconspicuous tags (#easter, #desk, #citycentre, #asia) were all presumably censored due to inappropriate content.
But here’s the problem, the NSFW content usually quickly returns to the tag, making Instagram’s censorship efforts largely redundant.
The following tags were all censored at the time of publication:
Instagram completely blocks users from searching the following 118 hashtags.
These tags have been added to millions of photos, but no results are displayed when these tags are searched in Instagram’s mobile apps.
A majority of the completely censored tags are either explicitly or mildly pornographic (#nobra, #cleavage, #sexual). There is also a collection of completely censored tags related to pro-anorexia, and self harm (#thinspiration, #thinspo, #selfharm, #loseweight).
The reasons why other tags on the banned list are less obvious (#like, #popular, #PopularPage, #ILoveMyInstagram, #IG), and a little confusing.
The list of completely censored hashtags was compiled using the Instagram API. Beginning with the original list of banned hashtags – some of which are now un-banned. I wrote a program to search each tag, and check if it was still banned or censored. When a tag was not censored, the program would collect additional tags from recent Instagram photos posted to that tag, and continue searching.
Over 10,000 tags were explored while building this list.
The list of partially censored tags was easier to compile. I simply searched for Instagram’s community guidelines violation message using Google, and compiled the list of partially censored tags.
The Data Pack is a blog and social data workshop created by Nick Drewe to explore ideas about how we communicate and share information about ourselves online. I also create tools to enable sharing, like the Instagram Map Widget, and blog about travelling at Pineapple Explorer.