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Banning Words on Instagram Doesn't Help--It Makes It Worse

By Georgia Tech News Center

March 17, 2016

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Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) researchers recently conducted a study showing Instagram's decision to ban certain words commonly used by pro-eating disorder (pro-ED) communities has produced the unintended effect of those communities making up new, almost identical words, and driving up participation and support within pro-ED groups by as much as 30 percent.

The researchers say the communities are still very active and thriving despite Instagram's efforts to moderate discussion of the pro-ED lifestyle.

The researchers examined 2.5 million pro-ED Instagram posts from 2011 to 2014 to study how the community reacted to the social network's content moderation. "People pretty much stopped using the banned terms, but they gamed the system to stay in touch," says Georgia Tech doctoral student Stevie Chancellor.

The 17 moderated terms transformed into hundreds of similar, new words, each of which had an average of 40 variables. "Likes and comments on these new tags were 15% to 30% higher compared to the originals," says Georgia Tech professor Munmun De Choudury.

The researchers also found the content on these lexical variants discussed self-harm, isolation, and thoughts of suicide more often than the larger community of sufferers of eating disorders.

From Georgia Tech News Center
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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