- Instagram has a community that encourages eating disorders. They use hashtags like #proana (short for pro-anorexia) and #anaismyfriend.
- In response to the proliferation of pro-anorexia content on the platform, company is cracking down, showing more content warnings for certain hashtags, and refusing to show search results for some altogether.
- Instagram told the BBC it doesn’t tolerate eating disorder support and wants its users find help when they need it.
Instagram is cracking down on its users who share images that encourage eating disorders by adding more health warnings and making terms unsearchable on its platform.
According to the BBC, Instagram has had health warnings for search terms encouraging eating disorders since 2012. If you search #bulimia, #anorexia, or #ednos, for instance, the app will offer to connect you to resources that can help.
But now the company is taking a harder stance. It’s expanding its health warnings to slang and alternative spellings for terms that reference eating disorders.
For some searches, it won’t show any results at all. #proana –slang for pro-anorexia – won’t show any posts even though INSIDER found numerous posts using the hashtag. And alternative spellings and slang for common eating disorders, like #anorexie and #anaismyfriend, now trigger Instagram’s content warnings.
Instagram also stopped recommending alternative spellings for words that encourage eating disorders. If you search #anorexia, it won’t show #ana, another common hashtag used to refer to the disorder.
There are still cracks. The #bonespo tag – used to show “inspiring” images of people with visible bones – has a content warning when you search it. But #bonespoo – a common alternative pelling – doens’t. It also doesn’t have warnings for terms that glorify thinness itself, like #thinspo.
Instagram doesn’t use algorithms or moderators to monitor content, and instead relies on user reports to supervise its community and the content on its site.
12 subtle warning signs of body dysmorphia
In addition to the company’s pro-anorexia community, it also has a thriving community of people recovering from eating disorders, as well as people who make memes about them.
In a statement to the BBC, Instagram said it doesn’t tolerate eating disorder support, but that it also wanted to encourage users to seek help and resources if they are struggling with eating disorders.
“We recognise this is a complex issue and we want people struggling with their mental health to be able to access support on Instagram when and where they need it,” the company told the BBC. “We, therefore, go beyond simply removing content and hashtags and take a holistic approach by offering people looking at or posting certain content the option to access tips and support, talk to a friend, or reach out directly [to support groups].”
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If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call NEDA’s Helpline (1-800-931-2237) on weekdays for support, resources, and information about treatment options. In crisis situations, NEDA offers 24/7 support – just text “NEDA” to 741-741.
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