Study Finds Instagram's Pro-Anorexia Content Ban May Have Done More Harm than Good
Instagram has a huge, potentially devastating body image problem. Trends like thinspiration, which actively promote unhealthy body sizes, and the lifestyle choices often undertaken to achieve them, have been linked to a steep increase in anorexia and bulimia cases, so much so that Instagram instated a full ban on any content which could be recognised as in any way pro-anorexic.
It seems like a fairly apt solution to the issue, on the face of it, but it might actually be moving things in the wrong direction. A study by Georgia Tech revealed that while censoring posts containing such keywords did reduce their use across the platform, many users simply made up new terms which couldn't be flagged, often basically the same with slightly different spelling, and the trend carried on unhindered.
Accordingly, the spread of the content was granted a boost, meaning that it had the potential to reach a whole host of other, vulnerable users who may have already been contending with eating disorders. Additionally, these related terms still come up when searching for the already-censored search terms, so those who were already engaging with the content haven't been cut off from it either.
There's no one solution to an issue like this. Some have suggested adding links to help organisations when related content is searched, or just changing the algorithm to include all related terms, rather than a small pool of hashtags. In either case, what is the most evident is that the current system, beyond simply not working, is intensifying an already rampant problem. There's no way of completely curtailing the spread of pro-anorexic content online, or even on Instagram, but it needs to be addressed in a way which demonstrates an understanding of the surrounding issues, rather than just trying to stamp it out.
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF
Study Finds Instagram's Pro-Anorexia Content Ban May Have Done More Harm than Good Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, March 14, 2016 Rating: