Instagram unveils new anti-bullying feature to discourage trolls

'This intervention gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment'

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 09 July 2019 11:14 BST
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Instagram has introduced a new anti-bullying feature that will ask users to think twice before posting a comment it deems offensive.

The feature, unveiled on Monday, would mean that if a user typed “you are so ugly” below someone’s post, for example, Instagram would interrupt them with a message that reads: “Are you sure you want to post this? Learn more”.

Clicking “learn more” will then send users to another notice, reading: “We are asking people to rethink comments that seem similar to others that have been reported.”

The photo-sharing app hopes the tool, which uses artificial intelligence to recognise potentially offensive language, will prevent abusive interactions on the platform.

Writing in a blog post, Instagram’s chief executive Adam Mosseri said the company has much more to do in order to fully tackle the problem of bullying.

“We can do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram, and we can do more to empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves,” he wrote.

“This intervention gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification.”

Mosseri claims that early tests of the feature have proven successful in terms of preventing people from writing harmful comments. He went on to describe online bullying as a “complex issue”, pointing to young people who are reluctant to block, unfollow or report trolls in fear of escalating the situation.

“Some of these actions also make it difficult for a target to keep track of their bully’s behaviour,” the tech guru added.

The introduction of Instagram’s new feature comes after the father of 14-year-old Molly Russell, who took her own life in November 2017, said he believed the platform was partly responsible for her death.

“It is important to acknowledge that they (tech firms) do a lot of good, but sadly their platforms are being used by people to do harm and they have not done enough to prevent that,” Mr Russell said at the NSPCC’s How Safe Are Our Children? conference in June.

“Unless change happens, their platforms will become toxic,” he added.

In Mosseri’s blog post, he added that he is looking at introducing another new anti-bullying feature called Restrict.

“Once you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person,” he explained.

“You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments.”

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Users who you’ve restricted people also won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram or when you’ve read their direct messages.

“It’s our responsibility to create a safe environment on Instagram,” Mosseri concluded.

“This has been an important priority for us for some time, and we are continuing to invest in better understanding and tackling this problem. I look forward to sharing more updates soon.”

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