Instagram bans the eggplant emoji from new search function

The Eggplant emoji has been blacklisted from Instagram's new search function, much like it's predecessor, the #eggplant hashtag. We explain how a seemingly innocuous food item became the social network's enemy number one.

A seemingly innocuous vegetable is the first to get blacklisted from Instagram's new emoji search function

How did this seemingly innocuous fruit become the subject of Instagram's most controversial hashtag? (Instagram / Emojipedia)

The internet went full-on "hallejujah hands" this weekend over the news that Instagram would finally be allowing the use of emoji in hashtags. 

It was thumbs-down all around, however, when grammers learned that the notoriously naughty eggplant emoji had already been banned.

"Over the past few years, emoji have become part of a universal visual language," reads an announcement posted on Sunday to the social network's blog. "With emoji hashtags, you can discover even more by adding them to your own photos and videos, searching them on the Explore page and tapping on them when you see them in captions."

Instagram users wasted no time in categorizing their photos with one-character emoji hashtags like the soccer ball, the heart-eyed cat face, and even the syringe (which, as of Monday afternoon, brought up just over 1,400 posts — mostly from tattoo artists and medical professionals.)

It would appear as though emoji hashtags are every bit as vulnerable as their text-based counterparts, however, when it comes to being banned by Instagram.

Just hours after the Facebook-owned company's new search tool was announced, users discovered that the eggplant emoji had been blacklisted, just like its #eggplant hashtag predecessor.

This means that, regardless of how many posts are tagged with the eggplant emoji, no results will appear when it's searched for.

The absence of this seemingly innocuous nightshade from Instagram's otherwise restrictionless emoji search feature may seem strange to the uninitiated, but to those familiar with the significance of eggplants on social media, the move makes sense.

In a nutshell, the eggplant (or "aubergine," as its sometimes known) emoji has succeeded all other midly-phallic symbols on the Unicode keyboard in recent years to stand in for a penis (or, as VH1 puts it, "the bulge in your sweats, underwear, or pants.")

Instagram first cracked down on the viral, text-based #eggplant and #eggplantfriday hashtags in January after they exploded with NSFW photos.

Within months, dozens more hashtags starting with "eggplant" (including those named after every single day of the week) had been banned, though some on Instagram still use misspellings of these tags in attempt to circumvent the restriction.

Naturally, after learning that Instagram had launched an emoji search function on Sunday, more than a few curious users tried to run a search on the purple fruit and see what happened.

Their searches returned nothing.

"It appears that Instagram is smart enough to know that eggplant = penis in emoji-speak," wrote Buzzfeed's Katie Notopolous, explaining that Instagram "blocks certain hashtags that have graphic or harmful content, like #porn or pro-anorexia terms like #thinspo."

On Sunday night, Instagram confirmed to Buzzfeed News that it had indeed blocked the eggplant emoji from search on the grounds that "it consistently is used for content that violates [its] community guidelines."

Strangely though, as Notopolous and others pointed out, more traditionally risque emojis like the gun, the knife, the cigarette, and (Canada's favourite) smiling poop emoji remain searchable.

"RING THE ALARM. IT'S TIME TO #FREETHEEGGPLANT!" wrote Notopolous, encouraging dissenters to use the same hashtag once suggested by TMZ after #eggplantfriday got the boot (and perhaps making a vague reference to the #freethenipple movement.)

The hashtag has now been used in approximately 1,600 Tweets, most of them rather tongue-in-cheek.