Hashtags are used in searches on Instagram.  It is the equivalent of search terms in your search engine.  But do you know, some of these search terms are banned on Instagram.

These banned hashtags can still be used, but they can not be searched.   In other words, you can still using these hashtags, however your images would not be found by others searching using these hashtags.

The community decides

Banned hashtags typically are used with inappropriate content.  These are images with  sexual reference, violent in nature, or deem inappropriate by the community and Facebook (owner of Instagram).   The word inappropriate is the key in this.   Facebook monitors the community for complaints on inappropriate content, and decide which hashtag is black listed.

Because ‘inappropriate -ness’ is subjective, Facebook has to make a value judgement on which hashtag is banned.  Facebook may also ban certain hashtags ban based on its own business and commercial reasons.

Spammers are trying to game the system, by commandeering popular hashtags to get wider reach.  So, some of these hashtags are also banned, or banned until the spammers move on to the next hashtags.  This ‘cat and mouse game’ causes a lot of confusion in the community as there may well be no apparent reason for a hashtag ban.

An ever changing list

There are two levels of censorship. Hashtags can have an outright block, and return no results.  The second case is a sort of soft and it effect is temporary.   Typically this happens when Facebook is evaluation or monitoring the reactions from community.

The list of banned hashtags can run into tens of thousands.   A quick search in May 2017 found 53K hashtags that are or had been banned by Instagram.  This list is dynamic, as new hashtags are banned and others are re-activated.

The problem is knowing which of your hashtags is affected ?

Am I OK ?

You can use smaudience’s hashtag research tool to check if your hashtag is affected.


Enter a hashtag;   a red stop sign will appear if your hashtag is banned.     A green tick tells you your hashtag is active and searchable by others.   This test is live and reflects the current ban status of a hashtag from Instagram.

Alternative hashtags

If your hashtag is banned,  look for alternatives.  The tool also gives you alternatives and hashtags with similar spelling.   It also shows you the vital performance statistics for you to make an informed decision.

You can click any of these hashtags to check their ban status.  Copy the hashtag you are interested in, by clicking the green <select> button on the top right.  Paste this into your own hashtag list.

About this blog

This is blog is created for you digital marketers. It shares tips, practical advice and latest development on Instagram marketing.   Some of these topics are discussed in further details in our ebooks.   For example, the latest hashtag secret ebook, can be downloaded here.