How can I hide abusive messages on Instagram?

Social media harm is a topic that we have discussed before. In the past, we have closely followed what measures popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have taken to deal with hate speech.

Now, image-sharing platform Instagram is making strides in its efforts to combat online bullying by adding a new feature that will allow users to filter out abusive messages from people you don’t follow on the platform.

The changes come as a result of high profile Premier League footballers speaking out earlier in the year about social media abuse they have faced, calling on social media companies to do more to prevent the posting of harmful messages.

Instagram’s new feature allows you to hide direct messages (DMs) from users that you don’t know that contain harmful language. The company explains that “Because DMs are private conversations, we don’t proactively look for hate speech or bullying the same way we do elsewhere on Instagram”.

However, this tool filters DM requests containing offensive language when it’s switched on. The social media platform further explains that the tool focuses on DM requests “because this is where people usually receive abusive messages”.

The ‘Hide Message Requests’ feature works in a similar way to the comment filters which allow you to hide offensive comments and choose what words you don’t want people to use in comments under your posts.

Here’s how to switch it on:

  • Open your Instagram app
  • Go to profile and then tap on ‘Settings’
  • Select ‘Privacy’
    • For enabling the ‘Hide offensive comments’ feature go to ‘Comments’ (this should be automatically switched on)
    • For enabling the ‘Hide message requests’ feature go to ‘Hidden Words’ (this is a new dedicated section of your privacy settings within the app which should appear soon).

DMs that are deemed offensive will still appear in the Message Requests section of your profile, but under ‘Hidden Requests’, and will not be immediately available to view. You’d need to tap on ‘Hidden Requests’ if you’d like to see the hidden messages there.

From data privacy perspective, Instagram has highlighted that all message filtering takes place on your own device and no content will be sent back to their servers. The platform will only get access to the harmful DMs if you were to report them.

The new ‘Hide Message Requests’ tool will soon be available in several countries including the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Germany.

Instagram will also soon enroll a new feature that will protect users from unwanted contact. This means that if you’ve already blocked someone, they won’t be able to contact you from a new account. This new feature will be available globally within weeks.

For more information on how to protect yourself from online bullying, read some of our other posts on the topic: