The hashtag search function on Instagram is #incomprehensible

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on August 28, 2013

From The News Desk

Instagram search for #SheWantstheD

Instagram search for #SheWantstheD

Instagram search for #thesexpistols

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Slate just posted a video from NowThisNews that makes a good point: Instagram's got some weird rules about searchable hashtags. The site blocks hashtags it thinks are inappropriate, could lead to porn, or are just downright disturbing (like #thinspo, the rallying cry for pro-anorexics everywhere). But at the same time, horrible but popular hashtags known across the social media sphere -- like #SheWantstheD -- slip through the cracks.

The fact that Instagram blocks something like #thesexpistols, but allows #SheWantstheD is baffling. I remember coming across #SheWantstheD months ago on my Twitter feed, and thinking for awhile that there was no way it meant what I thought it meant. It crept into my newsfeed, and I was half convinced it was a spin off of "AllThingsD" -- like a hashtag for women in tech. Wishful thinking, obv. One click of the hashtag proved that wasn't the case.

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It's become the weird, rapey hashtag for (mostly) men who want to tweet about everything a woman does that shows she wants to have sex with them.

If Instagram's gonna get all big brother-y about hashtags that should have been the first one to go.

On the one hand, Instagram's attempts to filter its content make sense. As PandoDaily covered, Tumblr did the same thing -- search blocking -- to try to deal with its "porn problem." Facebook removes ads with pornographic or violent content and blocks inappropriate comments. It's a PR disaster waiting to happen to let groups pushing violent, sexist, or just plain gross content through a popular social networking platform.

But at the same time Instagram's hashtag blocking -- which totals at least 205 hashtags according to blog The Data Pack which added them up -- is censoring a little too excitedly. After all, it blocks searches for hashtags like #sexybeast and #fuckmyjob which, although perhaps not the most intelligent or articulate statements, are still legitimate ways people might choose to express themselves. Instagram also blocks hashtags like #photography and #iphone, which Krieger, co-founder of Instagram says don't "were too generic and didn't provide enough end-user value."

It reminds me of website moderators kicking out trolls so that comment sections can host interesting, legitimate debates. It's noble in theory, but does Instagram -- land of the hipstomatic selfies and food porn shots -- really need a police officer doing quality control?

We reached out to Instagram for comment but hadn't heard from them at the time of publishing. We'll update the story if they get back to us.