One of the most fun things about creating stories on Instagram or Snapchat is decorating them afterwards. Using stickers, location tags, and filters are playful ways to make your story stand out as something unique and interesting to watch in what otherwise seems like a neverending stream of content. And when Snapchat and Instagram started offering GIFs that you could add to stories and just in photos, things got even more creative and fun. But if you've an avid user of either app, you may have noticed that, recently, the GIF stickers option has been taken away, leaving many users to wonder why GIF stickers aren't working on Snapchat or Instagram.
As it turns out, though, there's a serious reason behind the disappearance of GIF stickers: Both Instagram and Snapchat decided to suspend the feature after users found a GIF that depicted a racial slur in the library of available stickers, TechCrunch reported on Mar. 9. Instagram and Snapchat use the popular site Giphy to provide GIFs to users, and the social media platforms don't determine which GIFs end up in the available stickers. Giphy released an official statement to Tech Crunch, saying,
A user discovered an offensive GIF sticker in our library, and we immediately removed it per our content guidelines. After investigation of the incident, this sticker was available due to a bug in our content moderation filters specifically affecting GIF stickers. We have fixed the bug and have re-moderated all of the GIF stickers in our library. The GIPHY staff is also further reviewing every GIF sticker by hand and should be finished shortly. We take full responsibility for these recent events and sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended.
After backlash to the offensive GIF, the social media platforms acted quickly to make sure the content would no longer be seen by users. A Snapchat spokesperson told Tech Crunch that the platform "removed the GIF" as soon as they were made aware of the bug, and "disabled Giphy until we can be sure that this won’t happen again [...] while we wait for Giphy’s team to take a look at it.” The spokesperson also told Tech Crunch that the GIFs available for use are supposed to be "rated PG," meaning they're suitable for users 13-years-old and up, which is the technical age limit on Snapchat. Instagram also told Tech Crunch, "This type of content has no place on Instagram. We have stopped our integration with Giphy as they investigate the issue."
But how exactly did the offensive GIF get on Giphy in the first place? Giphy works like a search engine that indexes the top GIFs on the internet — it's basically Google, but for GIFs — so while that type of content is prohibited on the site, it's possible that some content can slip through the cracks as it's indexed. It's up to strong moderation systems to keep offensive or objectionable content off the site, even though it may still exist on the web at large.
Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy GIF stickers, however, it's not currently clear when the feature will be available once again. Snapchat told TechCrunch, “We have removed GIPHY from our application until we can be assured that this will never happen again.” Because of the immense popularity of GIF stickers after their separate launches on each platform back in February, many people are hoping the feature will be available sooner rather than later. But, as annoying as it might be to be without them for a short period of time, this stringent review is ultimately a positive thing for everyone.