Instagram has had a major problem with online bullying on its platform and Adam Mosseri, the head of the Facebook-owned company, says he’d rather have fewer users than allow bullies to thrive.
But, instead of blocking posts or banning offenders, Mosseri has announced that new tools will be rolled out on Instagram to curb the spread of bullying online.
One tool will use artificial intelligence (AI) to identify offensive comments while the other will give users the power to restrict certain accounts from publicly commenting on their posts.
Mosseri hopes that these tools will “prevent bullying from happening on Instagram” and “empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves”.
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Think before you act
The AI-powered Rethink tool will flag comments that could be considered offensive before they are posted. Users will be asked, “Are you sure you want to post this?”, giving them the opportunity to reconsider their words.
According to Instagram, tests have shown that the notification to rethink their comment has encouraged “some” users to “undo their comment and share something less hurtful” instead, giving them the “chance to reflect”.
However, “some” doesn't seem very encouraging, so for those comments that get past the AI filter, there’s another that provides those targeted by offensive comments with more power.
The power to shadow ban
Moserri says that often online bullying goes unreported because targets are scared that blocking a user could lead to heavier repercussions. To empower these people, Instagram will soon be rolling out a second tool called Restrict which essentially gives targets the power to block bullies without them ever knowing.
Restricted users will continue to see posts from their targets as per usual, but will not be able to see if the user is online or has read their posts. Targeted users will have the power to review any comment from an offender – they can approve the content for everyone to see, delete it, or leave it pending so it’s invisible to everyone except the offender who will be none the wiser.
Targets won’t even have to see the comment if they don’t want to – it will be hidden behind a “sensitivity screen” which will need to be tapped for the approval process.
Restricted users who send direct messages to their targets will see the conversation in their inbox but targets will not receive a notification for the new message and won’t be able to see the conversation at all. Instead, these threads will be sent off to where spam is relegated – if targets want to see and respond, they will need to un-restrict the bully first.