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Instagram faced backlash last week for blocking the hashtag #curvy and preventing Instagram users for searching for it. Instagram's reasoning is that the word was associated with nudity and other banned content, but Instagrammers wondered why a body-positive term that's so associated with plus-size fashion would be blocked. Now Re/Code investigated the policy behind Instagram's reasoning to block certain words.
"In this case, #curvy was consistently being used to share content that violates our guidelines around nudity," a spokesperson told Re/code. That policy means that any word that is being used to post inappropriate photos would be blocked, even if it happened to be an innocent word like #beautiful or #happy. That's what happened with random words like #eggplant and #soles, also banned on Instagram.
"On the flip side, sexual or inappropriate terms are allowed, so long as the prevalence of inappropriate content associated with those terms doesn’t cross a specific threshold," Kurt Wagner writes. So that might be why words like #vagina and #body are still searchable. Instagram wouldn't disclose any details to Re/code about what how much inappropriate content needs to be posted before a hashtag is banned.
But maybe there's a chance #curvy could come back. Instagram is considering hand-picking appropriate images that would show up when possibly controversial hashtags like #curvy are searched, so as to prevent inappropriate images from flooding the search. It's a method that Instagram used for #CaitlynJenner to prevent an overflow of hate speech from Instagram users after the ESPY awards. But while Instagram continues to block #curvy, bloggers are posting photos using #curvee, #bringcurvyback, and #stillcurvy.
Update: Two days later, Instagram has officially un-banned #curvy. As stated above, the social media site will start curating the tag more closely, weeding out the inappropriate images instead of banning the hashtag altogether.
"This wasn't curvy pornography, this was just irrelevant pornography," Instagram's director of public policy, Nicky Jackson Colaco, told the Washington Post. She explained that the reason that #curvy got banned while tags like #vagina lived on is that users weren't reporting inappropriate images found on inappropriate hashtags, mostly because they expected to find those images there. When pornographic images popped up under normal tags like #curvy, users were more likely to report the offensive images.
Moving forward, Instagram will monitor all of its tags more closely. "There is nobody who's cherry-picking terms [to ban]," Jackson Colaco said. "And the silver lining in this we have been made aware of terms that hadn't gotten reported. We're trying to be as consistent as possible."