by olicard.carriere on September 3, 2013 - 1:19am
Instagram and censorship. On the surface, the two have little in common. Instagram is for pictures of food, retro-styled filters and hashtags. Censorship is for serious matters, classified secrets and offensive material. However, as this article posted on The Data Pack shows, an overlap exists. Instagram has a list of banned hashtags, which return no results when searched. As hashtags are one of the principal methods of discovery on Instagram, a ban essentially censors the picture from other users. As censorship becomes an increasingly large online and the Internet becomes a bigger part of the "offline" world, the topic of censorship is something that I keep a close watch on.
While the article itself presents no opinion, it does implicitly ask a question. Is can censorship be acceptable?
In my opinion, censorship can be acceptable, as in the case of Instagram. Banned hastags fall into three main categories. The first category covers hashtags that provide little value yet are quite frequent, such as #photography and #instagram. This is mainly for technical reasons and is not particularily harmful, as these hashtags are too general to. The second covers potentially harmful or self-harm related tags, such as #proanorexia and #probulimia. This is done in the name of protecting users, and is useful in stopping the promotion of negative behaviors. In both of these cases, the intent is to minimize legitimate problems.
However, the third category is a trickier. It covers tags that Instagram considers sexual or offensive. This is done in an attempt to keep the content they host "acceptable". Unfortunately, what is acceptable and isn't is a very nebulous concept, and can potentially change from moment to moment. While Instagram is not currently "serious" enough to have a significant impact, other social media sites most certainly are. The Arab Spring comes to mind as an situation where such a practice could have a huge impact.
While the motive behind the third category is understandable, it raises another question: do creators have the right to determine how their creations are used?