My kids aren’t on social media. But sometimes when I’m on it, they’ll ask if we can look something up, like a funny meme or hashtag they’ve heard about at school. Earlier this week, my 12-year-old asked if he could look up the hashtag #bigchungus, which he understood to be a weird giant bunny.
Thankfully, our established protocol is that mom checks out the results of random searches like that first, and I will let them look at the content if it ends up being appropriate. I was in Instagram, and the top result for that hashtag was a video, which auto-played for my viewing convenience. I was squinting my eyes, trying to understand what the heck this video was… until I realized it was a video of oral sex from PornHub.
Several other results did indeed have giant bunnies visible, but at that point we aborted the search altogether. I posted about the incident in a closed Facebook group of 26K parents navigating technology. Some parents were able to duplicate the PornHub search result, and some got only innocent results, using the same hashtag.
[There was also a lot of discussion about whether or not #bigchungus is innocent or if there is a sexual meaning behind it. Some parents cited an Urban Dictionary reference of the term also meaning “big anus,” however I could not find that on UrbanDictionary.com. ]
TAKEAWAY: Instagram algorithms are still a bit of a mystery, some users will see objectionable content, and others might not. It’s highly unreliable and fraught with risk.
Regarding PornHub, one mom in the Facebook group asked, “Why are they even allowed on IG? Their name literally has porn in it!”
Good point. Parents should understand that Instagram has no problem with porn, as long as the body parts aren’t shown (the video I ended up seeing had genitals hidden from view by the camera angle). Their community guidelines focus on nudity. (There’s plenty of that on their platform too, though they claim it’s “not allowed”… huh? Is that a joke or something?)
Apparently, Instagram recently announced a new campaign to clean up “inappropriate” content. We’ll see how that goes. An official Facebook statement about the changes coming: “For example, a sexually suggestive post will still appear in Feed if you follow the account that posts it, but this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages.”
We remain skeptical that brands like PornHub will be kept out of the Explore or hashtag pages simply because big brands generate engagement, which in turn drives ad prices, directly profiting Instagram. The jury’s out on that one. This kind of clean up would present a near reversal of Instagram’s standard operating procedure. While we wait on those results…
We need to #FixAppRatings
WHAT CAN WE DO? Here’s something: we can demand systemic change. One campaign we’re supporting right now is the fight to fix app ratings.
Instagram is on a short lists of apps that are the worst offenders of their own self-rated platform. Are we as parents okay with Instagram having an app rating of 12+ (appropriate for anyone older than 12)? Should the largest pornographer in the world (Porn Hub) be allowed to occupy space on an app that is rated appropriate for minors? Side-note: 13 is the minimum age “allowed” on Instagram… we all know there are millions of pre-teens on there as well.
We believe that any app hosting content FROM PORNOGRAPHERS should automatically be disqualified from a 12+ rating, and should be moved to a 17+ category (adults).
There are a number of us banning together to push for an independent ratings board to fix app ratings and assign standardized criteria for what makes an app safe for kids. Hint: anything with a direct message option from strangers is NOT safe for kids.
Join Us in the Fight!
Go to fixappratings.com and SIGN THE STATEMENT towards the bottom of the first page. Together, we can make a difference!