Insta-News: Instagram Takes Measures to Block ‘Offensive’ Emojis

Along with its exciting announcement on April 27th of three new outdoor filters, the popular social media app Instagram revealed that you can now tag emojis in all posts. The company explained that searching and tagging photos with emojis will help improve photo discoverability.

The announcement of the update was posted on the Instagram blog, and explained just why the company felt it was so important to now include emojis: “Over the past few years, emoji have become part of a universal visual language. And just as we share photos and videos, we use emoji to communicate emotions and feelings in ways that anyone can understand, regardless of language or background.”

Users have been requesting this service for a long time, but one popular emoji won’t be making the cut. Instagram has long struggled with trying to keep its content “clean;” that is, banning anything that is in direct violation of its Terms of Agreement and may be considered offensive. Therefore the eggplant, a sexually suggestive emoji, cannot be searched as a tag. (The eggplant is also sometimes known as an “aubergine.”) The thought behind this is the same reasoning behind previous banning of hashtags such as #underwear or #nude that are pornographic in nature. Before the emoji, #eggplant and #eggplantfriday were banned by Instagram after they generated an explosion of NSFW photos, which explains the instant banning of the emoji form of the hashtag.

Instagram confirmed that they had banned searching the eggplant emoji hashtag, saying that they “target terms and/or symbols that are typically used to violate [the] Community Guidelines.” They also added, “One of the signals we use to determine if a hashtag should be made unsearchable is if it’s consistently associated with photos or videos that violate our policies.”

To be clear, Instagram users can still tag and use the eggplant in their posts, but the eggplant cannot be searched to find other posts with the same hashtag.

Some users are very upset with this development, especially since other emojis which could be considered harmful content have not been banned, such as the gun, cigarette, or knife, which has been used to tag pictures of users cutting or self-harming themselves. Some have started a #FreeTheEggplant campaign in protest.

For those trying to get around the ban, however, hashtag combinations such as two eggplants or an eggplant paired with a peach emoji or banana emoji (two other very suggestive emojis) seem to be working so far.

Jonah Engler is a finance expert from NYC who embraces social media and technology.