Instagram is hoping to combat cyber bullying via two new tools

Image: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

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”.

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.

Image: Instagram

Image: Instagram (Image credit: Instagram)

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.

Image: Instagram

Image: Instagram (Image credit: Instagram)

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.

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She's also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn't enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom's Guide, while also working on two of Future's photography print magazines Down Under.