We can now tag photos with emojis, and even search for similarly-tagged ones on Instagram — unless they've been tagged with the eggplant emoji.

Jolene Hee  |  Singapore
Published 2015-04-29 12:00:52

Can you guess why Instagram is banning the eggplant emoji from its new emoji search function?

Sorry, no prizes if you can — it just proves you have a dirty mind.

Instagram users cheered on Monday when Instagram announced that we could now hashtag our photos with emojis. Emoji hashtags are now also searchable via their new search tool. As expected, we Instagrammers loved it, rushing to hashtag our pictures with every emoji under the sun, until a Buzzfeed reporter noticed the one emoji that can’t be hash tagged — the eggplant emoji.

Image Credit: Business Insider
Image Credit: Business Insider

If you aren’t already smirking knowingly, there’s a very simple explanation. It seems that the humble eggplant — the one you see in supermarkets everywhere and in your mum’s stir-fry — has somehow become a euphemism for the male genitalia.

Image Credit: www.kancando.com
Image Credit: www.kancando.com

No one can be sure when the innocuous eggplant turned into something more in our collective sexual vocabulary, but it’s apparently so widely understood that Instagram has caught on. You’ll still be able to hashtag your photos with the eggplant emoji, but others won’t be able to see the picture when searching for it. Naturally, the ban has already sparked tongue-in-cheek hashtags like #FreetheEggplant.


Instagram users would already know that the social media site has pretty strict Community Guidelines. It bans hashtags on the basis of association with graphic or harmful content, such as #penis, #porn, or #thinspo. Occasionally, the decisions it makes on what to blacklist have attracted controversy, such as its choice to take down a photo of a fully-clothed woman’s menstruation stain, and its alleged removal of pictures that show women breastfeeding.

In this case, Instagram’s blacklisting of the eggplant emoji has raised eyebrows as well. Emojis that might be considered violent, like guns and knives, are still searchable — even when a search for the knife emoji produces numerous images of self-harm.

Image Credit: Business Insider
Image Credit: Business Insider

While Instagram has recently upgraded its Community Guidelines to make them clearer, there’ll always be grey areas regarding what should or shouldn’t be blacklisted, especially in view of how imaginative the human mind can get. The seemingly innocent eggplant emoji is a great example of how nothing’s ever clear-cut when it comes to censorship. Given how easily photos lend themselves to artistic and creative interpretation, there’s little way for censorship to be truly effective — at least, not without depriving us of some awesome eggplant recipes.

We foresee that bananas might be next.

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