Instagram Adds New Features: After another spate of insults against British soccer players in the wake of the recent Euro 2020 finals, Instagram announced a new set of options to help people-especially high-ranking users-manage their interactions on the app and avoid offensive comments and messages directed in their direction.
Instagram has released several updates in response to such incidents, including stiffer penalties for those who send insults via DM and the ability for personal accounts to completely disable DM from people they’re not following.
Now Instagram is adding even more to the mix – first, Instagram is expanding the rollout of its new “Limits” option, which it began testing last month. Limits allows users to temporarily limit unwanted comments and posts from select groups in the app.
As Instagram explained:
“We developed this feature because we heard that authors and public figures sometimes encounter sudden bursts of comments and DM requests from people they don’t know. In many cases, it’s an expression of support – for example, if they go viral after winning an Olympic medal. But sometimes it can also mean an influx of unwanted comments or messages. Now, if you’re going through that – or think you might – you can turn on Limits and avoid it.”
With Limits, Instagram will recommend groups of accounts you might want to restrict based on detected activity, which will then allow users to hide interactions with those profiles unless they manually choose to see them.
Instagram claims that most of the negativity directed at public figures on the app comes from people who don’t actually follow them, or have only recently followed them, and who just pounce on them in the moment. Limits aims to combat this and could be a big help to those in the public eye, especially during high-profile incidents. Twitter is also exploring a similar possibility by not allowing other users to mention your profile in @ for a certain period of time.
The restrictions will be available to all Instagram users starting today.
“Go to your privacy settings to turn it on or off whenever you want. We’re also exploring ways to detect a spike in DM comments and posts so we can alert you when the limits are turned on.”
Instagram is also going to improve its warnings about comments that might be considered offensive.
Currently, Instagram displays a warning when a user attempts to post a potentially offensive comment, based on automatic detection of certain terms and phrases in the comment box. If the same user tries to post an offensive comment more than once, Instagram will display an even stronger warning, once again pointing out possible penalties for insults on the platform.
To improve the response to these warnings, Instagram says it will now display a stronger message the first time, which may further discourage people from leaving such comments.
As you can see here, these stronger Instagram warnings specifically note that your account could be deleted as a result, which Instagram says really helps make users reconsider their approach.
“For example, in the last week, we showed warnings on average about a million times a day to people when they made comments that were potentially offensive. Of those, about 50 percent of the time, the comment was edited or deleted by the user based on those warnings.”
Even the slightest friction in the posting process can encourage people to rethink their comments, and a specific warning to remove an account can serve as a strong deterrent, helping to further reduce instances of insults on the platform.
Finally, this month, after testing over the past few months, Instagram will also roll out a “Hidden Words” feature for DM requests for all users.
The new option allows users to automatically filter DM requests that include potentially offensive terms, phrases and emoji, which are then redirected to a “Hidden” folder that users can view or not.
Instagram says it has also expanded the list of potentially offensive terms and emoji that will be filtered through this option, which will continue to be reviewed and updated over time.
This could help insulate users – especially high-ranking ones – from seeing such comments, and while the ability to view them will always exist, removing them from view could have a big impact.
The abuse that British soccer stars have seen on the platform is disgusting and serves as a sad reminder of the state of the world and that we still have a long way to go in combating the inherent bias and ensuring true equality. It is also a reminder of the negative consequences of the social media nexus. Now everyone, no matter how offensive their personal beliefs and positions may be, has the opportunity to get their thoughts out to thousands, if not millions, of people through these platforms.
The promise of social media is that it gives everyone a voice, a chance to be heard – but we must also recognize that some opinions, some points of view, do not deserve that opportunity. We can argue for a long time about who makes these decisions, but clearly these cases on Instagram underscore the importance of having at least some level of control over amplified speech, as well as the ability for platforms to take away the freedom to be heard in some cases.
This has always been a difficult balance to strike, as the platforms themselves prefer to let their users determine the parameters of acceptability. But clearly, society as a whole still has much work to do to maintain civility and acceptability for all people.
This is a people problem, not a platform problem – but social platforms don’t have to provide unfettered access to their audiences if they don’t want to.