Instagram keeps censoring hashtags

December 1, 2012 - 20:32

Instagram keeps censoring hashtags -- the tasselflower blog

It appears at some point after I wrote this article back in 2012 Instagram has changed their censorship policy. I've been told due to the problems with different languages they aren't doing this sort of automated word based censoring any longer. However if you do have stumbled upon blocked hashtags on Instagram, do let me know in the comments section.

In late September Instagram did a dirty trick of censoring non-offensive and popular hashtags. The censorship didn't last very long, as the huge mistake was noticed: Hashtags that got censored included such "offensive" words as grass, cassette, glass and even classroom. This was based on the fact that said words included the word ass as part of them.

Since the mistake was fixed things got back to normal. Or not.

The censorship continues

Recently I was struggling to get a photo to show on certain tag pools. I added a bunch of appropriate tags to the photo, but it didn't seem to show up anywhere. Until I realized what was wrong.

One of the tags I used was wet. Apparently the Instagram folks have muddy minds since the only wet they can think about has to do with (I'm guessing here) female genitalia. My photo didn't include any anatomy, it was a photo of a reflection on a wet street. And because I had included this very offensive tag to the list of hashtags, none of them worked.

The hashtag censoring is one of Instagram's answers to their spam and other misuse problems. Like any other Internet based service that allows it's users to create content, it's also being flooded with unsolicited advertisement, porn and other material deemed offensive.

Instagram has reportedly started to disable accounts that have used any urls on their comments. For instance if you mention your own website or Facebook page (which is rather funny considering that IG is now FB owned) on your captions or comments, you may get blocked from using Instagram for good.

It does more harm than helps

Unfortunately none of their silly methods help. Each time an automated of semi-automated way to clean Instagram from offensive and spammy material, the trolls come up with other means to harass everyone else.

They don't add urls to their comments anymore, but mention an account, which then has the link to the sites they are trying to get us check. They don't use the censored hashtags, but all the other, popular ones.

The hashtag censoring is a problematic approach to any trolling problems in general. It becomes a freedom of speech issue.

It only makes things difficult for the regular users. My example proves that at least some of the words Instagram has marked as offensive can be used in a quite non-offensive ways too. On the other hand all the different languages make the whole hashtag censoring even more futile and in some cases more stupid.

It may be true that most people don't think your cat was caught by the rain, when you talk about your wet pussy. Or an hairy ass may not draw a picture of a donkey that needs shaving. However I never thought the word wet in any way offensive until I realized what the dirty minds behind the censorship are thinking. (Shame on you, Instagram boys and girls!)

Erections on Instagram are okay, though

To make the situation even more strange the censorship of Instagram seems pretty random. Wet and some of the words I mentioned above are apparently offensive. There are other tags that fall into the same category as previous, such as tight and deep, which aren't offensive.

If your name is Dick, don't use it as a hashtag, since it's censored too. Dong, on the other hand, is not blocked.

The funniest thing of them all is that erection or any of it's variants are NOT censored. You cannot be wet but you can have an erection? Big brother is being a sexist.

While Instagram keeps censoring random words, be very careful. If you happen to include one of those blocked hashtags, none of the non-blocked hashtags will work for your photo either.

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31 replies for "Instagram keeps censoring hashtags

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Marc Lewis's picture
Marc Lewis on said

I think our company's instagram account has been blocked. Hashtags have not associated any of our posted photos to their appropriate hashtag galleries for over a week now. I have backtracked my gallery and found where they stopped working. I have submitted 3 bug reports to instagram (on the Facebook page instagram links you to) regarding my issue, without a reply.

Until reading this column, I was completely frustrated by doing all the work posting a photo, only to see that it was for nothing. A post without tags is pretty much useless...particularly for a new user account. Our posts did not use a large number of tags, and text entered was not offensive...or so I thought.

After reading your article about censorship on instagram, I "believe" I have a clearer picture of what might be going on. The last post with working hashtags included the word "Bitchin'", as in, "Here is a bitchin' shot of a drag slick." If they have blocked words as benign as grass, pass and wet... Bitchin' is probably considered an offensive word as well.

Having rules of conduct should be expected, and welcomed (to a point) by the majority of users. The problem is that the rules appear to be unwritten, inconsistent and ever changing. Add to that the fact that Instagram does not contact users in any way to notify them of any infractions that have occurred. You are just cut off. In my book, that is not cool.

Our company has budgeted for Facebook marketing this year, but if Instagram and Facebook are going to ignore users when they have account issues, those marketing dollars will be spent elsewhere... and instagram will just have been a blip in our marketing past. It makes no sense to put time and effort into something that can be rendered useless by the trigger-happy flip of a switch, because Instagram thinks you are acting inappropriately.

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Yes Marc, it looks like "bitchin" hashtag doesn't work on Instagram. And I agree, the whole thing is badly done by Instagram.

The fact that there's no way to know which hashtags are going to work and that there's no feedback when you add a blocked hashtag is truly annoying. It seems really random: Wet seems to still be blocked and erection (in it's many forms) not.

I don't understand the real logic behind this move. I mean, I do get the point that there's lots of hashtag related misuse on Instagram, but this is not the right way to address it.

I understand if you will decide to divert your company's Facebook marketing dollars elsewhere. It really is frustrating and useless to spend money on something that will work or not work out of whim.

yatush's picture
yatush on said

just don't use offensive hashtags like "#sex" than all the hashtags in the groping work again...if you allready posted it you have to delete it and upload it again without offensive hastags included >>>>thats all you have to do !!!

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Dude, as mentioned above, all the hashtags blocked aren't offensive at all. And since when sex has been offensive? Check what it means.

Also if sex is offensive, then why erection isn't?

Besides you'll just have to delete the "offensive" tags from the image, not the image itself.

Bad, bad, bad advice coming from you.

Molly 's picture
Molly on said

I was an idiot, I guess, cause I tagged an artistic half - nude collage piece #boobs cause I tag all my work with any elements in it, like #red #woman #nature etc. But even after deleting that one "offensive" tag, it still won't show up in any of the other tag searches, and I don't want to annoy my less than 100 followers with a repeat post. Sigh. Unfortunately, I can't really say I'm surprised : maybe I should count my blessings cause IG hasn't deleted my account due to gratuitous posting of those damned biological baby bottles! It was validating to read your post, though, so thank you!

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Molly, I feel you. I didn't know if I should cry or laugh when I realized that the tag #wet was actually (and I think continues to be) blocked. I mean, really? Wet?

I'm far from being offended by boobs. I happen to own a pair and rather like them. So it really confuses me what this sort of censorship achieves. It only makes things difficult for us who don't spam and doesn't do a thing to stop the spammers.

What comes to the previous commenter and my reply to it, it frustrated me to see someone actually thinking the word sex would be offensive. What the hell?

Saleh's picture
Saleh on said

Dear Mervi,

I have a problem with instagram hashtags, can you help me with that? hashtags does not work in my account. (@salehinstagram) I dont know why. they are noy offensive, some of them are in my language (Persian) . I used different devices, and uninstalled and reinstalled the app several times. I am so frustrated. it would kind of you if you help me.

Best,
Saleh

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Hi Saleh,

I replied to you via email. However here's the same thing, in case you didn't get my email:

Here's one possible solution: http://jasonralph.org/?p=104

When you want to use a hashtag I recommend to search for it first. If the search returns 0 photos, the hashtag is very likely to be blocked by Instagram. If any of the hashtags you use on a single photo are amongst these blocked ones, none of the other hashtags will work either.

The thing is that Instagram is blocking also hashtags that are not offensive. So you can never know which ones are blocked and which not.

Also you cannot use any special characters, only the letters (a-z) and no numbers.

Otherwise I don't know what could be wrong. Instagram hashtag system is a mystery. Sometimes things work, sometimes not so much.

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paola's picture
paola on said

hi, i posted a photo with my bf. the caption i typed was "wtf ( where's the food) face" well maybe it was a bit offensive cause generally wtf means you know. but i didn't meant it that way. now ig is deleting my hashtags/ hashtags doesn't really work on my photos already. is this going to be permanent?

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

I don't know Paola, but I'm afraid that might be the case. Things Instagram folks do are really beyond my understanding. Have you tried to contact the support? Not that they are very keen in replying, but you could always try.

Linus's picture
Linus on said

Hi!
Sry, just have a question.. Booth my gf's phone and mine delete hashtag and account history by itself.. Is this possible?
Probably it must be cuz, yeah well, it happenS.. But do you have any idea why?

//Linus

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Hi Linus, thanks for stopping by!

I've lost the hashtag history on IG app (iPhone) many times. It usually happens when the app crashes or just acts up in general.

I don't know what's the deal with it. For some reason, the moment the app crashes/stalls it clears caches/history.

I assume the problem is with the app being in certain ways kind of buggy.

Sorry I cannot help any further, but be assured: It's not just you (and your gf). ;)

Linus's picture
Linus on said

Thank you so much!
You know, i've been searching forthis answer on the web for like 2 months..

Best wishes to you from sweden!

:)

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Happy to hear I could help! :)

I was trying to come up something cute to say, but unfortunately my Swedish is a bit rusty. Vi ses! ;)

Greg's picture

I have run into a similar problem where my hash tags have stopped working. But now it seems that none of them do. For the past several days I have run a test by posting a picture with a very obscure hash tag, but to no avail. Suspecting that there may be a problem with my account, I opened a new one then used that picture and hash tag, and it worked. Could IG have banned me?

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Hello Greg! It sounds like your account has been flagged. It's possible that someone has flagged your account or your photo as spam (some do it by accident). This apparently blocks you from using hashtags.

If you were actually banned from IG you wouldn't be able to post photos at all. Therefore I'm guessing you've been flagged.

There doesn't seem to be a support page for this (the question is why the hell not), so it appears you must wait until they clear your account as non spam. Don't know how long it takes and apparently you won't get any notification of it. Splendid.

If you are on Twitter, you could ask about this from them (@instagram). There's a slight chance they might reply. Or not. They aren't the best with customer service, you know.

Greg's picture

Thank you for responding, Mervi. Sounds to me like it's time for an alternative to Instagram.

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

No problem Greg! I understand your frustration. I don't get why they've made this thing so difficult for real users. Spammers are having a hoot and the rest of us are taking the penalty.

It's pretty much impossible to get your images noticed on IG without hashtags. Unless you are really extremely popular and/or a celebrity.

They could at least give us a way to report false reports...

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Greg's picture

Just wanted to give an update. I closed my Instagram account and went to EyeEm (www.eyeem.com). It is a good alternative to Instagram and has a more mature user community.

Mervi's picture

Thanks for letting me know, Greg! EyeEm looks promising, I must take a spin around it as well.

Djformative's picture

I am a dj and I just realised that they banned "formative" tag which I am using as my stage name, I just do not understand why they blocked djformative as well. How cld i appeal against the ban? I can't seems to get support contact link for ig!

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Hello Formative! :)

Unfortunately I don't know if they take appeals against the bans. The Instagram/Facebook support is slow and often they don't seem to have interest in customer problems.

But you can always try and make a bug report here:
Report an Instagram Bug!

I hope this helps!

mike's picture
mike on said

some reason last couple of days people cant see my photos byt my followers even i`m public i think they banned me for no reason ;(

Mervi's picture
Mervi on said

Hi Mike, that sounds weird. Have you tried to contact the support? I know they aren't the most supportive, but perhaps you could still try.

mike's picture
mike on said

hi yes i did no respond nothing ! its so weird did not do anything wrong but still when i post picture nobody cant see except my own follower ;( thanks anyway !

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