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Why #underboob and anorexia are allowed (again) on Instagram

In this Monday, April 9, 2012, file photo, Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone, in New York.

Karly Domb Sadof/AP

Instagram regulars will know how common "foodgasm" or "foodporn" are used to emphasize how good a meal tastes or looks.

But other, more culturally questionable and outright provocative hashtags continue to present a challenge for the photo-sharing site. Which is to say, Instagram continues to block #cleavage while easing its stance on #faketits.

Who else is #confused?

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Fast Company reported yesterday that Instagram has decided to permit previously banned words which, when preceded by a "#." allow users to easily search for similarly tagged photos.

While #boobs and #boobies still won't yield any results, #underboob is henceforth searchable. So are some other compound expletives that would ordinarily elicit a parental advisory warning – and cannot be printed here. More controversially, #thinspo – a term associated with eating disorders – has emerged from hashtag hiding, only now, it comes with a warning and a link to the U.S. National Eating Disorders website.

In April, 2012, the site had opted to restrict the use of "thinspiration" and "proanorexia."

"While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or to cut, harm themselves, or commit suicide will result in a disabled account without warning."

Compare that to the comment made by an Instagram spokesperson to Fast Company yesterday: "We want Instagram to be a safe and fun place for people to capture and share moments. That means finding a good balance between allowing people to express themselves and providing protections to prevent certain content that would be against our terms."

The spokesperson, who was not named, also noted that users should feel welcome to report any content that makes them uncomfortable.

Instagram allows users to report abusive content with a button located beside every picture post.

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In easing up on some forbidden words but not others, it would seem the site is trying to figure out the point at which freedom of expression crosses over into offensive or harmful content.

But as The Cut's analysis of the relaxed rules rightly notes, the choices seem arbitrary at best.

"What is it about #underboob that makes it more acceptable than #sideboob?" wonders writer Maggie Lange.

Indeed. And this isn't likely the last we'll hear on the issue. Incidentally, Instagram seems to have no issue with #screwedup.

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