Instagram rolls out new features to help prevent cyberbullying
The social media platform is stepping up efforts to help stomp out harassment and other abusive behavior
Instagram has unveiled new tools to help combat cyberbullying and other abusive behavior on the platform – a filter that will prevent users from seeing abusive Direct Messages (DMs) and a tool to stop someone a user has blocked from contacting them from another account.
“We understand the impact that abusive content – whether it’s racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other kind of abuse – can have on people. Nobody should have to experience that on Instagram. But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely,” Instagram said in a blogpost introducing the tools. Indeed, cyberbullying has become a perennial problem on social media, with victims ranging from children to adults.
To protect user privacy, the Facebook-owned social media network doesn’t proactively monitor users’ DMs like it would other publicly viewable content on its platform. Instead, it is debuting a tool that will filter out abusive messages.
“That’s why we’re introducing a new tool which, when turned on, will automatically filter DM requests containing offensive words, phrases and emojis, so you never have to see them. This tool focuses on DM requests, because this is where people usually receive abusive messages – unlike your regular DM inbox, where you receive messages from friends,” explained the popular social network.
The new feature isn’t dissimilar from the previously introduced comment filtering system, which allows users to hide abusive or offensive comments, as well as set up a word filter that will hide comments that contain the flagged terms. Both the DM and comment filters can be set up through the Privacy Settings in the Hidden Words section.
While Instagram users will have the option to set up a custom list of words depending on what they consider offensive, the company has also worked with several leading anti-bullying and anti-discrimination organizations to create a predefined list of offensive words. Importantly, Instagram won’t see the content of the messages, since the filtering will be done natively on the device; however, users will have the option to report offensive behavior.
Although users were already able to block accounts of people who were harassing them, Instagram is also introducing a new tool that will allow them to block also any new accounts the offender will create to continue their tirades.
“This is in addition to our harassment policies, which already prohibit people from repeatedly contacting someone who doesn’t want to hear from them. We also don’t allow recidivism, which means if someone’s account is disabled for breaking our rules, we would remove any new accounts they create whenever we become aware of it,” said the platform.
While both tools should be rolled out to users over the upcoming months, the social media company acknowledged that there is still more work to be done, and promised to keep cooperating with organizations, experts, and teens to weed out abusive behavior.