Instagram’s new anti-bullying features: All you need to know

Image-sharing social media platform Instagram recently announced that it’s rolling out new features to combat bullying online. The new feature uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify negative comments before they are published and asks the question “are you sure you want to post this?” before they are shared on another person’s post. The tool doesn’t stop people from posting negative comments, but it prompts them to consider whether what they’re about to post is appropriate. It also allows them to undo the message before it gets posted.  

The new tool will be first available to English-speaking Instagram users, but the company plans to make it available globally in the near future.  

The rollout of this feature follows concerns around the negative effect that content and comments posted on Instagram could have on its users’ mental health. According to research by Pew Research Center, 59% of American teenagers have been bullied or harassed online. Another study from this year from UK media regulator Ofcom, also reported an increase in online bullying.  

What measures has Instagram taken in the past?  

This is not the first attempt by Instagram to combat bullying on its platform. For example, the first comment and emoji filter debuted in 2016. It was rolled out first to pop singer Taylor Swift to help her remove thousands of snake emoji from the comments on her profile. The feature was rolled out to the general public later in the same year. In June 2017, the Facebook-owned company launched an automated offensive comment filtering, followed by automated bullying comment filtering, launched in May 2018. Then in October 2018, Instagram applied machine learning filters to detect bullying images and captions.  

What is Instagram Restrict?  

Instagram has also announced that it’s going to roll out another feature soon with the purpose to empower its community to “stand up to this kind of behavior”. Called Restrict, the feature will allow users to “restrict” a person, without the bully being notified of this action being taken toward them. This gives users the ability to control who sees their comments without them knowing. The restricted person would also not been able to see when a user is active on Instagram and when they have seen or read their direct messages.  

Instagram has taken these measures because young people in its community are “reluctant to block, unfollow, or report their bully because it could escalate the situation, especially if they interact with their bully in real life”. 

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