Would you dare to use these banned Instagram hashtags?
Everyone knows that social media platforms are governed by laws of unspoken etiquette. There are certain dos and don'ts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and if you don't follow them, it pretty much makes you an awful person. For example, do post a beyond-adorable photo of your Boston Terrier puppy. In fact, post several, make him Instafamous with his very own account, I'll follow it. On the other hand, do not upload a picture of you and your boyfriend making out for the 17th time this week. Just don't do it.
However, if we're talking rules and regulations, the social media gods have some of their own. If you break these, you get more than just judged behind your back by your six hundred and something Facebook friends. This time, there are more dramatic consequences. Over the past few years, Instagram has been cleaning up its pages, and along with the fresh start, come hundreds of banned hashtags. These are basically hashtags that you can't use under any circumstances, and although many of them are what you'd expect, there are some shockers on the list that'll make you scratch your head and think "huh?" For instance, did you know that the hashtag "#desk" is partially banned? Weird, right?
The prohibited hashtags came to public attention last year, when Nick Drewe, a writer and programmer who examines social networks on The Data Pack, compiled a list and shared it with the world. As well as opening our eyes to the prohibited hashtags, Drewe also told us all about how bans on Instagram work, explaining that there are two types of censorship: completely banned and restricted.
“Instagram appears to have changed the way it censors hashtags now,” Drewe explained. “There are two levels of censorship. Hashtags can either have an outright block, and return no results, or a sort of ‘soft,’ often more temporary censorship with around 30 results.”
So, how can you tell if a hashtag is banned and what exactly happens if you use it anyway? With partially banned hashtags, the main way to know if the Instagram bosses aren't happy with their use is to type it in the search bar at the top of the app. Normally there are two sections that will emerge; the "top posts" and the "most recent", but if a hashtag is being used in an unsavoury way, Instagram will remove the most recent section and only display a select few of the top posts for you. On the other side of the coin is completely banned hashtags - you'll know these are banished from the site immediately after typing them out in as no search results will emerge.
Include a banned hashtag in your post and you'll notice a dramatic reduction in your likes and comments. Known as a "shadowban", Instagram has made your post invisible to anyone but you. Search for it and you'll see that it's nowhere to be found on anyone's newsfeed, so probably doesn't stand a chance in hell of getting a like.
Everyone knows that hashtags mean engagement, engagement means likes and zero likes means a lot of seriously angry Instagrammers. So without further ado, below is the list of hashtags that you must use at your own risk. Feel free to join us in a medley of laughter and confusion as we examine both lists... and ponder what the hell Instagram was thinking when they prohibited some of these!
There are many, many more, permanently banned hashtags on the list - but you won't have to summon up too much imagination to guess what they include. It will come as no shock to anyone that if you use hashtags that are racist, sexist, try to encourage self-harm or to egg on eating disorders, you're in big trouble. Not to mention every imaginable use of the f-word.
However, it was the partially banned list that was the real surprise - how did the word "woman" become partially banned? Also, what is so wrong about hashtagging "brain"? Or "tanlines"? Or "elevator", for that matter?
The question you may all have on your minds now is: how do you check that you haven't already used anything risqué that sent you to the social media naughty corner? There is actually a way to perform an audit of your Instagram account to double check that you haven't got yourself shadowbanned. To search whether a hashtag you have used is banned on the photo-sharing site, you can go to Instagram Shadowban Tester. Simply provide an Instagram username or a direct URL to a photo on Instagram, and it’ll check to see whether the content is still publicly visible.
So then selfie-addicts, now you have the marauder's map of Instagram, it is up to you what you do with it. Use the sacred rules of hashtagging with great care - and remember, the social media gods do not forgive or forget.