Update, 7/24: After a week of outcry, Instagram has brought the hashtag #curvy back. Executives say that while they are unblocking the term, they'll also be monitoring it closely and working to raise top posts with relevant images.
In the future, Instagram promises to rely on users for honest feedback when something like this happens, according to the Washington Post. "We won't be perfect," said Nicky Jackson Colaco, Instagram's director of public policy. "but we will be thoughtful."
Update, 7/17: To circumvent Instagram's removal of #curvy, an entire community of plus-size style bloggers and fans are using #curvee instead, BuzzFeed reports. Women across Instagram posted in protest, also including hashtags such as #bringcurvyback, #everybodyisbeautiful, and the #effyourbeautystandards, popularized by model Tess Holliday.
You know what they say: Instagram can take away our tags, but they'll never take away our spirit. Or our homonyms.
Original post, 7/16: If you're looking for a dose of body positivity on Instagram, don't do it by searching for #curvy photos. That's because it turns out you can't search for that term on the app, BuzzFeed reports. Instead, you get suggestions like #curvygirl, #curvyfashion, and #curvywomen, but you can't just look for #curvy itself.
Why the block? An Instagram spokesperson says that the ban has nothing to do with the word "curvy" itself. Instead, they block certain hashtags, making them unsearchable, when lots of people use them to share content that goes against community guidelines. In this case, the hashtag #curvy was used to violate their nudity policy. (And if the #curves hashtag was at all similar, they were probably not lying about that. Search at your own risk.)
Instagram's usage policies have come under fire lately, and now activists are calling out the app for unfairly policing content. After all, #vaginas, #dildo, and #clitoris are still fair game, but #nipple isn't. Miley Cyrus has spoken out for the "free the nipple" campaign, and others have put photos of men's nipples over their female nipples in protest. Earlier this year, Instagram apologized after taking down a photo of a menstruating, but fully clothed, woman.
The issue might not be that Instagram is specifically policing women's bodies. Instead, items like #curvy women or period blood might be reported as offensive more often. And it's hard to delete every single photo that violates the policy, removing a hashtag might be easier.
But even still, activists say the censorship is hurting women's body image. Millions of photos were posted with that tag, according to a Websta.me search, and most of those were beautiful statements of self-esteem. Artist Sam Roddick, whose vagina-shaped artwork was blocked, told The Huffington Post that "they are showing that as a company their philosophy is emotionally and intellectually unhealthy and psychologically damaging towards women."