A recent update to Instagram’s search functionality gave users the ability to turn hashtagged emoji into platform-wide queries.
Emoji, for the folks unfamiliar with the popular symbols, are little sticker-like icons that are basically a step up from old-school emoticons. Now, for instance, if you wanted to search for pictures that had been captioned with smiley faces, salsa dancers, or sushi, you can plug those corresponding emoji into Instagram’s search bar and get back results.
Interestingly enough, though, of the dozens of emoji that you can ask Instagram to search for one of the most popular symbols is conspicuously missing–the purple eggplant.
Many emoji, like words, have come to carry multiple meanings that might not immediately be obvious. A cup of tea, for example, isn’t always just a cup a tea–it can also refer to (spilling) tea or to the popular internet meme featuring Kermit the Frog sipping Lipton. The purple eggplant, commonly used to make jokes about sex, has become synonymous with penises. Fans of the eggplant suspect that Instagram’s removed it from the list of searchable emoji in an attempt to keep adult content off of the platform, or to at least make it more difficult to search for.
Naturally, Instagram users are fighting back in the way that makes the most sense: flooding Instagram with eggplant emoji. Styled after #freethenipple, a widespread internet campaign urging social networks from censoring pictures of women’s nipples, #freetheeggplant wants to do the same for the digital aubergine. While the campaign may seem a bit silly–remember, this isn’t about bringing more penises to Instagram–the underlying message about the censorship of peoples’ bodies is a worthwhile one.