A scientific study has found that Instagram' s decision to ban certain words linked to pro-anorexia posts may have actually made the problem worse.
The study, conducted by a team at Georgia Tech, found that the censoring of terms like 'thighgap, thinspiration and secretsociety, commonly used by anorexia sufferers, initially caused a decrease in use.
However, they found that users adapted by simply making up new, almost identical words to get around Instagram's moderation, often by altering spellings to create terms like thygap and thynspooo .
Instagram's censoring of pro-eating disorder (ED) content began in 2012, when they began limiting what users could see when searching for certain terms.
Some terms, like #thinspiration, simply return no results when searched for in the app. Other terms, like #thin, are still searchable, but users first have to read a message warning them about the content and directing them towards ED support services
before they can see any pictures.
The researchers believe that by accidentally prompting the creation of these terms, Instagram polarised the vulnerable pro-ED community and actually increased how much members engaged with the content. Munmun De Choudury, an assistant professor at the
school, said: Likes and coments on these new tags were 15 to 30 per cent higher than the originals.