Social media picture sharing site Instagram has caught the attention of the Igniyte Online Reputation Management team this week after reports emerged that after an in depth investigation conducted by the BBC, the social networking site had decided to vet and remove some of its drug adverts tags.

The site has now said that it is blocking several search terms that are connected with the illegal sales of drugs on its services. Here at Igniyte Online Reputation this acts to prove to us that not even social networking sites owned by such monoliths as Facebook are safe from the stigma of negative online press; furthermore it goes to underscore the importance of search terms to online reputation.

This incident came as the result of an investigation by #BBCtrending, a new social media series for the BBC, that uncovered a whole host of pictures and videos on the photo orientated social networking tool of narcotics, with text advertising for their sale typed in the caption. Instagram basically had illegal drugs businesses running on its service without its knowledge.

Instagram has now reacted by committing itself to blocking several of the drugs related search terms that were being typed into the social networking tool by users to connect with these illicit drugs sales pictures. However, although the firm has a policy of acting on the blocking of posts that are flagged up as having inappropriate content, they have since commented that they believe it to be impractical and invasive to actively search for such material; suggesting that drugs adverts will find a way to circumvent these blocks.

A spokeswoman for Instagram commented on this to the BBC, saying “Instagram has a clear set of rules about what is and isn’t allowed on the site,” elaborating with “We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action.” She finished up by saying that “people can’t buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos.” These statements seem to deny a problem which is quite blatant and that will continue to be a problem unless more affirmative action is taken by the social networking provider.

This is an example of a company with negative press attempting to rectify the situation by treating the symptom, not the cause. Because they haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter, these people are going to find ways to circumvent this and it is sure to generate more negative press, which will lower its reputation in the eyes of users internationally.

However it does go to show the importance of search terms to reputation. Instagram’s first reaction is to target the search terms because they know this will be the most effective short term solution to the issue. This is because they know that search terms are the primary method users employ to glean the information they require from search engines. This whole affair just highlights the fact that control of search terms is key to control the effects negative content can have on your online reputation.

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